Saturday, 30 June 2012

Anvil - The Story of Anvil (5 Stars)

Before I say anything about the film itself, let me comment on other reviews I've read. Many reviewers compare the film with "This is Spinal Tap" which was made in 1984. The similarities are only superficial. Anyone who dwells too much on the parallels between the two knows nothing about rock music and probably hasn't even watched either film carefully. There are two major differences which outweigh all similarities:

1. "This is Spinal Tap" is a fake documentary, a "mockumentary" about a fictitious band. "The Story of Anvil" is a real documentary about a real band.

2. "This is Spinal Tap" is a comedy. "The Story of Anvil" is serious.

So one of the quotes on the movie poster above calls the film funny? And another compares it with "Spinal Tap"? Marketing banter, nothing more. The film studios suspected that not many people might go to the cinema to watch a documentary, so they said "Hey, if you liked Spinal Tap you'll like this". Sad, too sad. This is truly the best documentary I've ever seen, and it deserves to stand or fall on its own merits.

Anvil came together in 1978, and in the early 1980's they had enormous worldwide success and critical acclaim. They were the original thrash metal band that influenced the big four bands, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth. After three albums they reached the peak of their success in their 1984 world tour. Then they disappeared from the public eye. They made another nine albums that sold badly. In 2008, when the documentary was made, the band was still together. So what happened?

The film makes a few suggestions, without claiming to give any definitive answers. The band never had a good manager. They relied on independent record labels that produced their music poorly. They were Canadian. (It isn't meant as a joke that being Canadian is a disadvantage; Canada was very remote and detached from the 1980's heavy metal scene). Or maybe they were just unlucky.

The documentary follows the group over a few months. We see them doing their day jobs in a catering company. They go on a poorly managed European tour which earns them no money at all. They struggle to make a new album which they have to sell privately, because no record companies are interested. Then they go to Japan and are surprised to find themselves cheered by 10,000 fans.

The film is moving. Heartbreaking. It's tragic how a band with such amazing talent could flop. If you get a chance to watch the DVD, please take time to listen to the interview with Metallica's Lars Ulrich in the Extra Features, in which he heaps praise upon Anvil. Lars believes that Anvil's drummer, Robb Reiner, was the best metal drummer of the 1980's, and that Anvil's music was a step ahead of everything that had been played till then.

Click here to view the trailer.

Friday, 29 June 2012

This ain't Lady Gaga XXX (3½ Stars)

Yet another parody from the Martin Scorcese of pornography, Axel Braun. This film takes the form of a documentary, showing Lady Gaga's disputes with Beyonce and Madonna.

I enjoyed most of the film, but it ends on a disappointing note. The final scene is a foursome featuring Lady Gaga, Madonna and two security guards. One of the actors has problems remaining hard in the scene. The cameraman obviously realised what was happening, so the angle was switched to show only the other two, and then pans back to show the man from an angle that hides the problem. I'm not criticising the actor at all. Very few men are able to "perform" on a film set in front of a camera crew. I doubt I could. I just find the whole situation so unprofessional. The scene should have been refilmed. As it is the film ends on an anti-climax. A shame.

Click here to view the trailer.

Ich, ein Groupie (4 Stars)

I didn't really know how to name this post. Usually when I review a German film I use its English title, if it's been released in English. The problem is that this film has been released with several names, such as "Higher and higher" and "Me, a groupie".

The film takes place in 1970. A young girl called Vicky is wandering through Hyde Park in London when she sees a rock band called Luke Zane performing. She goes home with the lead singer, Stewart West. She smokes dope for the first time and has sex with him. She falls in love with him, but he has no interest in her and doesn't inform her when the band leaves to go to Berlin the next day. Vicky decides to follow him, but her journey takes her through Amsterdam, Zurich, and Munich. On the way she sinks deeper and deeper into drug addiction, sexual excesses and crime.

This film is fascinating. I can't give it a higher rating, because the final scenes in the film disturb me, but it's a near perfect snapshot of the music scene in 1970, the transition from the softer music of the 60's to the harder blues influenced rock of the 70's. The rock groups Luke Zane, Murphy Blend and Birth Control appear in the film, and various group members take part as actors playing themselves. Luke Zane and Murphy Blend have faded into obscurity, but Birth Control are still together today, having released their last album in 2009. I also enjoyed the cinematography and the way in which the major cities are presented in their distinctive characters.

The film has mixed messages. It glorifies rock music and free sex, but criticises the drug abuse connected with it. Vicky is presented as both naive and shallow. She screams when she's raped by Hell's Angels in Switzerland, but after they've finished with her she jumps happily onto their bikes to ride off with them. That sends a morally dangerous message.

This film is also a landmark as the first major role of Ingrid Steeger, who has since gone on to become one of Germany's most famous film and television stars. During the 1970's she appeared in a string of sex comedies, before becoming a household name for her appearances in the television series "Klimbim".

Thursday, 28 June 2012

This ain't Ghostbusters XXX (4½ Stars)

This is a porn parody by director/producer Axel Braun, filmed in 3D and released on Blu-ray. Only on Blu-ray, not on DVD. That's interesting. Usually pornography is lagging 10 years behind the rest of the film industry, as far as technology is concerned. Until the mid-2000's most pornographic films were released on video only. Since 2005 most porn films are released on DVD, but Blu-rays are still relatively rare. All of Axel Braun's recent releases, for the companies Hustler and Vivid, are also available on Blu-ray. But this film is exclusive to Blu-ray. It's as if Mr. Braun is taking a stand against low quality releases.

The film is barely a parody of the original "Ghostbusters" film. Plot-wise it's a 1-to-1 copy. Anyone who knows the original film will smile as he recognises the scenes being repeated. Ghostbusters with sex. If you've never watched any of Axel Braun's films yet, this is a good enough place to start. Recommended.

Click here to view the trailer. I hope you enjoy the theme tune as well.

The Tourist (4 Stars)

This film was already reviewed by my guest writer Kaylena here. I knew almost nothing about the film before I bought it. I bought it for two reasons: I love Johnny Depp as an actor, and I love the city of Venice.

Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) is a mathematics teacher from America, in Europe as a tourist. When on the train from Paris to Venice, a mysterious woman (Angelina Jolie) approaches him and shows an unexpected amount of interest in him. She even invites him to share her hotel suite in Venice. But if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Elise Ward is the lover of a man called Alexander Pearce, who is being hunted both by gangsters and the English police. Since Pearce has undergone plastic surgery, both the police and the gangsters think that Tupelo is really Pearce.

I enjoyed the film greatly, even though it moves slowly with very little action. Johnny Depp is brilliant, as always. I was happy to see a small part played by Rufus Sewell, one of my favorite actors. 4 Stars seems to be a fair rating, although I do have one problem with the film. I can't take Angelina Jolie seriously as a "beautiful woman". She may have been stunning 10 years ago when she starred in films like "Gia" and "Pushing Tin", but she's not aging well. She was 35 when she made this film, but she has the looks of a 55-year-old struggling to hold onto her youth. It's time for her to stop playing glamorous roles and progress into more matronly characters.

Click here to view the trailer.

Schoolgirl Report 9 (4¼ Stars)

With the new director Walter Boos new ideas are flowing into the immensely successful Schoolgirl Report series. In stark contrast to the previous installment, the humorous situations are kept to a minimum. To match the new style Gert Wilden's music is more discreet, disappearing into the background in most scenes. The system of nested story-telling frames is repeatedly used in this film, more often than in the Ernst Hofbauer films. It's also worth noting that the girls in this film are older. It has to do with girls in their final year at school, which means they are all 18 or 19.

The film starts with a group of youngsters leaving a party. Despite being drunk they leave in two cars. They drive at speeds up to 160 kmh (100 mph) on narrow country roads, the cars bumping one another for fun. For fun? I wouldn't do that however drunk I might be. One car is forced off the road and hits a tree. The other rolls down a slope. We then move to a police station where we see two police officers discussing the case. Miraculously, nobody was killed. There are only two severe injuries, the rest of the teenagers have escaped with minor scratches.

1. The policemen discuss the teenagers that they have interviewed. The first is Petra, 18, divorced. She fell in love with Horst, a car mechanic, and married him in a registry office. But things went bad from the start. They spent their honeymoon in a guest house run by Rosl Mayr, who spoilt the romance by telling them, in great detail, about how her husband had been too drunk to have sex with her until the third night of their marriage. After that Rosl kept walking in and interrupting the newlyweds in bed. "I have to change the towels. Just pretend I'm not here". When they returned home things were no better. Horst complained when Petra couldn't go out because she was busy with her homework. Petra complained when Horst couldn't come home because he was doing overtime. Total incompatibility. They got divorced, but when they left the court they decided to go to a party together "for old times sake". Yes, this is the party we saw the teenagers leaving at the beginning.

2. Tessi, 19, was at the party with her boyfriend Paul, who was played by German actor Heiner Lauterbach in his first ever film role. The policemen talk about a previous party Tessi had gone to. Lilo's parents were away for the weekend, so she planned to have an orgy with free sex. Those wild teenagers! Paul had a crush on Tessi and didn't want her to go to Lilo's party. Tessi insisted, so Paul went to the party as well and put sleeping pills in the punch. When everyone passed out Paul carried Tessi home. In a nested story Tessi tells us what happened when Lilo's parents came home and discovered the naked bodies lying everywhere.

3. Elke goes to the hospital to visit her friend Susanne who is lying injured after the car accident. At the hospital she meets Susanne's step-father, and we hear about how she had first met him. She visited Susanne at home and told Susanne how she had had sex with her boyfriend Albert (a nested story). While telling the story she was undressing Susanne and stroking her. The step-father walked in, said that what they were doing was disgusting and forbade Elke to come to the house again. After Elke left the father blackmailed Susanne into having sex with him, saying he would tell her mother about her lesbian exploits if she didn't agree.

4. Katya is a girl who lives with her aunt while she is going to school. She was invited home for her parents' wedding anniversary. The father wanted to impress Katya by being modern, listening to rock music and dancing. Unfortunately he didn't quite get it, and he was listening to 50's rock and roll. He also wanted to be anti-authoritarian. Katya said that she wanted a real father who acted like a father and was prepared to give her a slap whenever she needed it.

5. Achim, 18, is lying injured in hospital. His girlfriend Claudia visits him and blames herself for his injuries. If she had been at the party instead of staying at home the accident would never have happened, she claims. During their relationship they never had sex. Whenever it came close to sex she remembered an incident when she had seen a flasher by the lake (repeated nested stories). After an argument Achim decided to go to the party by himself.

6. The sixth story wraps up the loose ends from the previous five vignettes. We finally find out more about Albert, who appeared briefly in each of the other stories to invite the teenagers to the party. Monika is a girl who does badly in school. Her boyfriend in Karl is unemployed, and because he used to be self-employed he receives no unemployment pay. Albert is the junior boss in his father's company. Albert invited them to the party, so Monika thought that if she arrived early she could seduce Albert and ask him to give Karl a job. At the party she couldn't go through with it because she didn't want to be unfaithful to Karl, but Albert is a good guy and promised to give Karl a job interview anyway. After the party they left in the two cars and we see the accident again.

The policemen discuss the moral state of schoolgirls today. The younger policeman says that they all deserve a spanking, and it would never happen in his family. The older policeman thinks that parents should be more understanding. Then they are interrupted by Christina, the 15-year-old daughter of the younger policeman, who is completely drunk. He takes her to his car while the older policeman laughs.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Schoolgirl Report 8 (4 Stars)

Not wanting to rest on their laurels, the eighth installment of the German Schoolgirl Report films is released in November 1974, only seven months after the previous film. This film marks a departure for Ernst Hofbauer, who has directed all of the films so far. Walter Boos takes over the director's chair for the next films in the series. It has to be emphasised that Wolf C. Hartwig retained the creative control for all 13 films, whoever wrote the screenplays or directed the films.

I already mentioned Gert Wilden's music in my review of "Schoolgirl Report 4". In this film he takes it to the next level.His bawdy big band music emphasises the comic effect. Yes, this film is a comedy in its entirety. None of the scenes are fully serious.

The film opens with a class of schoolgirls going on a trip to a country retreat. This builds the outer frame to stories the girls tell one another on the bus, but the style is different to the previous parts. There is more interplay between the outer frame and the inner stories. The stories are frequently interrupted to take us back to the girls telling the stories. During the inner stories there is not just the single voice of the story teller, we also hear the voices of the other girls making comments or asking questions.

1. In the first story Gisela tells how she seduced Rolf, a shy young gardener working in her parents' greenhouse.

2. Annette is felling sick and tells the other girls that she's pregnant. She tells them how she met and fell in love with Jürgen, a first year medical student. She became pregnant the first time they made love. She wanted to have an abortion, but Jürgen persuaded her to keep the baby.

3. Jutta and Evi talk about a shy, plain-looking female teacher in their school, Miss Eberhard. They thought she was still a virgin, so they made a bet with their friend Hans that he couldn't seduce her. He succeeded in seducing her, but in the process he fell in love with her, so he lied to the girls and told them he had failed. The next day they realised that something had happened when Miss Eberhard came to school a different woman, self-confident and sexy.

4. Uschi went to a lake in the woods to swim naked with her sister. A fisherman saw them and stole their clothes. The girls ran away from him, and they met two boys by the lake. The boys caught the fisherman, stripped off his clothes and threw him into the lake. Then they had sex with the girls. The girls never got their clothes back, but they didn't seem to care.

5. Susanne's father was the accountant in a brewery and was scared he would be fired. She offered to take the work he'd been doing at the weekend to his boss. When she arrived she seduced him, and an affair began that lasted a few months. Eventually she got bored and broke up with him, but the end result of the affair was that her father's job was safe.

The bus arrives at the holiday home, and now the summing up story in the outer frame is unusually detailed. The holiday home's owner spies on the girls in the shower, so they pour a bucket of water over him. While walking in the fields Annette spots Jürgen camping in a field. Evi enters the Biology teacher Mr. Steinbach's room and tries to seduce him, but he resists and hits her. (That's a pattern in the films. Men can only resist seduction attempts by resorting to violence). The next day Evi sees Mr. Steinbach taking Inge, one of her classmates, into a nearby hotel and booking a room. She swears revenge on him for picking another girl over her. Annette spends the night in Jürgen's tent, but they're discovered and her parents are called. Her father is a public prosecutor, so he threatens to throw Jürgen into jail. He also threatens Mr. Steinbach, because Evi has informed him about the affair with Inge.

Are you managing to keep up with all that? I told you it was complicated. Don't worry, there's a happy ending. First Mr. Steinbach tells everyone that Inge is his wife. He married her after she left school, but now she had returned to school to get her qualifications. And then Annette's mother jumps in and tells her husband to shut up, she won't let him stand in the way of their daughter's happiness.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dracula AD 1972 (3½ Stars)

This was the seventh of Hammer's classic Dracula films starring Christopher Lee. It's the first to be set in modern day London; all the previous films take place in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

A young disciple of Dracula, with the rather silly name of Johnny Alucard, decides to resurrect Count Dracula on the 100th anniversary of his last death by staking. Dracula's goal is to take revenge on the Van Helsing family by killing the great-granddaughter of the man who staked him. We see scenes of swinging London, but at least the pop group that is featured, Stoneground, is a real 1970's group. This film isn't exceptional in itself, but I'm sure that fans of Hammer Horror will want to add it to their collection.

Meltdown (4 Stars)

This is another Jet Li film that has been released with two different names, "Meltdown" and "High Risk". As I already said when reviewing another film, I hate it when they do that!

Frankie Lone (Jackie Cheung) is a successful kung fu movie star in Hong Kong. He boasts that he always does his own stunts, but he often turns up drunk and is unable to perform, so his bodyguard Kit Li (Jet Li) does his stunts secretly. Frankie's fans call him one of China's greatest martial arts experts, but in truth he's long past his best years. When faced with real danger Frankie is cowardly and tries to avoid fights.
Most of the film takes place in a hotel during a reception for film stars. Frankie and the other guests have been trapped by a ruthless terrorist, the Doctor. Kit attempts to save them.

When the film was first released the film company released a statement saying that Frankie Lone was not based on Jackie Chan. It's interesting that they needed to say that. I would never have made that connection. If anything, Frankie's looks and mannerisms in the film are based on Bruce Lee, who I'm sure was a genuine martial artist.

The film is laced with comedy, and the action isn't as intense as in most of Jet Li's films, but it's nevertheless entertaining. I recommend it to my readers.

Toomorrow (3½ Stars)

This film first hit the cinemas in 1970, and I've been trying to get my hands on it for years. Now it's finally been released on DVD. I'm slightly disappointed, it doesn't live up to what I expected, but it's an interesting film that I'll probably watch more than once. It's a curiosity, unique in film history.

This wasn't the first time a film had been made about a pop group. The Beatles had already done it a few times, starting with "A Hard Day's Night" in 1964. What makes this film different is that it was the first and only time a film has been made to launch a new group. The film was released simultaneously with their first album and single. Some reviewers incorrectly refer to their album as the film's soundtrack, but it's more correct to say that the movie was the album's "filmtrack", if such a word existed.

But they flopped. All three. The film, album and single were failures, and the group disbanded. Band members Vic Cooper, Ben Thomas and Karl Chambers faded into obscurity. Olivia Newton-John began a solo career which took off slowly in the early 70's, until she was finally propelled to international stardom when she appeared in "Grease" in 1978. The problem is that it was the wrong music at the wrong time. 1970 was a year of change. The soft music of the 1960's was giving way to the harder music of the 1970's. Toomorrow's music was firmly rooted in the 60's. Despite the use of a synthesizer they sounded like a typical 1965 pop group. Their style, their harmonies, and even their hair was outdated. It wasn't what teenagers of the time wanted to listen to.

The music was the reason for the film's failure. The story is good in itself, and the cheap special effects can be forgiven. An alien race is stagnating, so they attempt to kidnap the amateur band called Toomorrow to play music for them. We see the band members running round swinging London, with parties and concerts where everyone looked like relics from the 60's. Val Guest might have been a talented director of science fiction films in the 1950's and 1960's, but he knew nothing about the youth scene of 1970.

Olivia Newton-John fans will be disappointed. She doesn't play as prominent a role as the DVD cover suggests. Marketing!

Mad City (5 Stars)

One man will make a mistake. The other will make it a spectacle.

This is a film by the legendary Greek director Constantinos Gavras, who prefers to call himself Costa-Gavras. His films will forever stand as works of art. They all manage to carry an important political or social message while remaining entertaining. That's something very few directors manage.

Dustin Hoffman is one of my favorite actors. In his earlier years he could be a totally different character from one film to the next, almost unrecognizable. Just to take a few examples, compare his performance in "The Graduate", "Midnight Cowboy" and "Rain Man". In the last 15-20 years he seems to have lost this versatility and always appears as a mumbling old man, but in my eyes he still stands up there as one of the greats. John Travolta, on the other hand, is an actor I've never liked. Except for this film. He excels in his portrayal of an uneducated security guard. The problem is that all actors are highly intelligent. This is necessary because it's a demanding career. Whenever an actor has to play the role of someone less intelligent he's acting against his own nature. Many times the result is a caricature, like a stupid redneck. Travolta does his job well in "Mad City", as a credible character who wants to do good but is hampered by his lack of intelligence. He's the perfect counterpoint to Dustin Hoffman, a highly intelligent person whose aims are primarily selfish.

Dustin Hoffman plays Max Brackett, a reporter sent to interview the curator of a museum that has reduced its staff. John Travolta is Sam Baily, a security guard who has just been fired. Sam enters the museum shortly before closing time with a gun to force the curator to give him his job back. Unknown to him, a group of schoolchildren are still in the museum. While arguing with the curator his gun accidentally goes off and he shoots his best friend, his fellow security guard who had kept his job. He panics and locks the front doors.

Max is trapped in the museum, and he sees this as an opportunity to tell an exclusive news story that will boost his career. He rings his colleague and tells her to make sure news cameras arrive before the police are called. "It's a guy getting shot, and a bunch of kids taken hostage. It's great television". Rather than just observe the news, Max begins to coach Sam, telling him how to speak to the police, advising him on how and when to release hostages. He interviews him live on television after telling him what to say so that he can gain favour with television audiences.

This is a story that tells of the shallow nature of today's media. An entertaining news broadcast is more important than saving lives. For instance, the intern standing next to the guard when he was shot is criticised for putting down her camera to help him; by doing so she lost the chance to get exclusive footage of a man suffering. While the film deals with Max's back story, which I won't describe here, the main point of the film is to show Sam Baily, a simple man who made a mistake and is then caught between the police and the media, not aware that he's being used. Brilliant.

Click here to view the trailer.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (4 Stars)

I was disappointed with the first Fantastic Four film, considering it a total flop when I saw it in the cinema, but it's growing on me. The second film is the exact opposite; I loved it at first, but repeated viewing is showing me its flaws.

The story of the coming of Galactus, originally told in Fantastic Four #48 to #50, is one of the greatest stories ever told. It's Stan Lee at the heights of his creative brilliance. But the four-part story of Doctor Doom stealing the Silver Surfer's powers, told in Fantastic Four #57 to #60, surpasses it. This is the problem with the film. The two stories, told in a collection of seven comics, have been squashed into one story. It would have been more effective to make two films as the second and third part of a Fantastic Four trilogy. In the film I'm reviewing we barely get to know the Silver Surfer. In the comics he's a beautifully tragic character who soon became a favorite of fans who were begging him to be given his own comic. It's also a shame that the possibility of a love triangle wasn't explored. In Fantastic Four #49 the Silver Surfer grew close to the Thing's blind girlfriend Alicia, not the Invisible Woman as in the film. This exploded into a full out conflict in Fantastic Four #55, but it could have been integrated into the second film of a Fantastic Four trilogy. A longer second film would have given a chance to introduce the Watcher, who stood with Galactus in Manhattan in Fantastic Four #49 and #50 pleading for the Earth to be spared. The character of Galactus could have been developed, showing him not as an impersonal force but as a sad being who isn't really bad, he's just driven by hunger to do desperate things... like eating planets.

The third film would have had a chance to show prolonged fights between Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four. Group battles, of course. I didn't like that the film combined all of the Fantastic Four's powers in one person. This weakened their credibility as a team, in my eyes.

I think that Marvel missed a chance with this film. If the Silver Surfer had been portrayed differently fans would be clamouring for a Silver Surfer film now. As it is, there's no interest, apart from hardcore 1960's comic fans like me. It could have been much, much better. Let's hope that some day in the not too far future there will be a reboot.

Click here to view the trailer. Sigh.....

Fantastic Four [2005] (3¾ Stars)

When I first heard that there would be a Fantastic Four film I was excited. Really excited. As a child they'd been my favorite superheroes. I bought their comics more often than any others. Or rather, my father, who supported my love of comics, bought them for me. The Fantastic Four were a new direction in comic book heroes. They were heroes without masks, they had no secret identities, everyone knew their real names. This was preserved in the film, but so many other things disappointed me.

I grudgingly accepted that the Invisible Girl's name had been changed to Invisible Woman. I guess that's more modern. But I didn't understand why Johnny Storm's hair isn't blond in the film. This is even more incomprehensible now that actor Chris Evans has had his hair dyed blond to play Captain America. And why is Ben Grimm's girlfriend, Alicia Masters, black in the film? It looks like Hollywood has racial quotas that determine casting.

But the biggest problem with the film is Doctor Doom. In the film his body turns into metal, and he can store and discharge energy, but in the comics he had no super powers. Everything he could so was a result of his scientific inventions. The film was also spoilt by having him show his face for so long; his most terrifying feature in the comics is his cold metal mask.

In the comics the Fantastic Four didn't start out as powerful. The Human Torch's flames didn't last so long until he'd practised his powers for a few years. The Invisible Girl didn't develop her power to create invisible shields until Fantastic Four #22. The film should have taken more time to show this development.

Nevertheless, after watching the film for the third time it's growing on me. I almost gave it 4 stars, even though it doesn't live up to the quality of the X-Men and Avengers films.

Click here to view the trailer.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Legend of the Red Dragon (4 Stars)

This film has also been released as "The New Legend of Shaolin". Don't you hate it when they change the names of films? I was caught out once. I bought "Kiss me, kill me" without realising that it was the same film as "Baba Yaga". In this case, consider this a warning to Jet Li completists. Don't buy the film twice!

Jet Li plays Hung Hei Kwun, a rebel against the ruling Qing dynasty. His wife is killed by government forces, and he takes revenge on Ma Ling Yee, the man who betrayed where he lived, but unknown to Hung he survives. Hung then wanders the country as a beggar, accompanied by his son.

At the same time there is a crackdown on the Shaolin temples. The monks hide their treasure, and they tattoo a map to its location on the backs of five young boys. Four remain in the temple, one returns home to live with his father. Hung becomes a bodyguard for a rich man in the same town. A female con artist called Red Bean moves in with Hung's employer, pretending to love him but only after his jewels. Hung sees through her, but says nothing. Then Ma arrives in town searching for the boys with the map, and Hung unites with Red Bean to fight against him.

A very good story with interlocking plots. It's amusing watching the young boys -- aged about eight? -- fight with one another. The only downside for me is the coldness of Hung Hei Kwun. He walks through the film showing hardly any emotion. It's deliberate, of course, but I don't like it. It makes it difficult for me, a very emotional person, to relate to him.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Gloomy Sunday (5 Stars)

On a sad Sunday with a hundred white flowers,
I was waiting for you my dearest with a prayer.
A Sunday morning, chasing after my dreams,
The carriage of my sorrow returned to me without you.
It is since then that my Sundays have been forever sad.

Sad Sunday.

This last Sunday, my darling, please come to me
There will be a priest, a coffin, a catafalque and a winding-sheet.
There will be flowers for you, flowers and a coffin,
Under the blossoming trees it will be my last journey.
My eyes will be open, so that I could see you for a last time,
Don't be afraid of my eyes, I'll be blessing you in your death.

The last Sunday.

In 1933 a previously unknown Hungarian composer wrote a song called "Gloomy Sunday". It was recorded and released as a gramophone record in Hungary and became an immediate hit. Following this it was released in America and became a hit worldwide. The above lyrics are a literal translation of the Hungarian song. The English version, first sung by Hal Kemp, was released in 1936 with these words:

Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless,
Dearest the shadows I live with are numberless.
Little white flowers will never awaken you,
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you.
Angels have no thought of ever returning you,
Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?

Gloomy Sunday.

Gloomy is Sunday, with shadows I spend it all,
My heart and I have decided to end it all.
Soon there'll be candles and prayers that are said, I know,
Let them not weep, let them know that I'm glad to go.
Death is no dream, for in death I'm caressing you,
With the last breath of my soul I'll be blessin' you.

Gloomy Sunday.

The song became notorious when there were reports of a string of suicides committed in Hungary by people while listening to the song. The wave of suicides spread across the world and became largest after Billie Holiday recorded the song in 1941. The BBC banned Billie Holiday's version from being played on radio because of its adverse effects on the listeners; this ban remained in force until 2002. Nevertheless, musicians have been fascinated by this song for over 70 years, and it has been recorded countless times, including versions by Ray Charles, Elvis Costello, Sinead O'Connor, Loreena McKennitt and Bjork.

The song is the subject of this German film, made in 1999. It makes no claims to be a true story, it's simply a tale of the composer and three other people connected with the song.

Laszlo owns a luxurious restaurant in the centre of Budapest in the 1930's, which he runs with the help of his waitress and lover Ilona. They hire a pianist, Andras, to entertain the guests. Andras immediately falls in love with Ilona, and she can't decide between the two of them. After initial jealousy both men accept the situation and are glad to share her affections. A short time later they are visited by a German businessman, Hans Wieck, who also falls in love with Ilona and proposes marriage during his first visit to the restaurant. She turns him down because she can only love Laszlo and Andras. In the same evening Andras plays a song that he has composed for Ilona called "Gloomy Sunday". After leaving Hans attempts to drown himself, but Laszlo saves his life, which is the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two men.

The Second World War begins. The cinema newsreels name Hitler and Andras as two men who have become famous and are causing many deaths; Hitler in Europe alone, Andras throughout the world.

A few years later Hungary is being occupied by Germany. Hans returns to Budapest as the SS officer responsible for rounding up the Jews in the city and sending them to concentration camps. Laszlo is a Jew, but Hans promises that no harm will come to him. Hans has no particular dislike for the Jews, but he is an evil man without scruples. He expects Germany to lose the war, so he makes deals with rich Jews, offering to let them leave the country if they pay him $1000 each, which must have been an enormous amount in the 1940's. He tells them that these are "necessary expenses" and asks them to remember him after the war. I won't say any more about the film because it would involve spoilers, except that Hans's plan succeeds. When the war ends he is immensely rich, and he is universally praised as a hero who saved Jews.

This is a beautifully made film, and the unusual love affair is strangely touching. It's all the more bizarre that the three main characters enjoy their love oblivious to the mounting deaths around them. Andras is unaware of the destruction he's unleashed. And the song is haunting as it's performed throughout the film.

Click here to view the trailer.

Click here to listen to the song in a music video with scenes from the film. This might give you a better feeling of the film's atmosphere than the trailer itself.

True Legend (4 Stars)

Su Chun was a successful general. In reward for his services he was offered the post of governor, but he turned it down, recommending that his adopted brother Yuan be made governor instead.

Five years later Su has retired and is living with his wife and son. He spends his days practising the Wu Shu fighting style. Yuan returns home for the first time in five years and kills his father by adoption to take revenge for him killing his real father. He also wounds Su and takes his son prisoner. Su and his wife spend two years in the mountains while Su recovers his strength and refines his martial arts. While there Su becomes addicted to alcohol and gets drunk on wine every day.

The film is then divided into two parts. In the first part Su battles his brother to get his son back. In the process his wife is killed, and he reacts by completely succumbing to alcohol and living as a beggar. In the second part Su wanders to the northern border of China, where he finds his countrymen being slaughtered for sport by English fighters. He fights against them using a "Drunken Fist" fighting style.

I have mixed feelings about the film. It's obviously meant to be taken seriously, but the fight scenes seem like a parody. How can someone who is drunk win fights against skilled opponents? In the final battle Su Chun stands drinking more wine while waiting for his opponents to attack, and then carefully balances the wine jug in one hand while hitting them with his other fist.

Click here to view the trailer.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Die Aufschneider (4 Stars)

This film is a rarity. It's a German comedy film that is actually funny. The title is difficult to translate, since it's a word play. "Aufschneider" as a noun refers to someone who boasts about himself, a braggart. On the other hand, the verb "aufschneiden" means to cut open, so there's a secondary meaning of someone who cuts things open. Both apply to this film, since it's about a team of surgeons in a small old-fashioned hospital who have to prove that their hospital is better than the big modern hospital next door.

The film starts with a local government official telling the hospital boss that it's inefficient for two hospitals to stand side by side, so after a 10-day inspection it will be decided which of the two will have to close. Enter a marketing expert who says that the hospital should be run more like a holiday camp. The doctors and nurses are encouraged to dress up in sombreros and sing and dance for the patients.

Unfortunately they don't know that the government official is being bribed by the other hospital. He will save it in return for being given a new liver. This leads to hilarious situation comedy in which the two hospitals steal blood from one another, kidnap patients and even capture doctors to cut them open and use their internal organs. This is a film well worth watching, if you can understand German.

Click here to view the trailer.

Eichmann (4½ Stars)

This is a true story based on the interrogation of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann by Captain Avner Less in Israel in 1960. In an interview 20 years later Less said that many people had not heard of Eichmann, and so it had become his mission in life to tell everyone that Eichmann was just as evil as Hitler. I confess that although I vaguely remembered the name I couldn't have said anything about him. This film was my first real introduction to the man.

During the war Eichmann's official job was as a transportation officer. This might sound like he played a minor role in the war, but he was actually a very important person. His job was to arrange the transport of Jews from Germany, Poland and Hungary to concentration camps. Not satisfied with this, he used to travel to the camps personally to give advice on executing Jews in order to make room for the next transports. Cyclon B gas was used to kill Jews on his recommendation, since it was far more efficient than the methods that had been previously used. Far from "obeying orders", Eichmann openly disobeyed orders if he thought they were wrong. In 1945 Himmler ordered Eichmann to stop killing Jews because German defeat was imminent, but Eichmann reacted by speeding up the executions to rid the world of as many Jews as possible before it was too late.

After the war Eichmann was captured by the Americans, but he was freed after giving a false name. He emigrated to Argentina using a fake passport. For many years it was thought that this was his own doing, but it was later revealed that the Argentinian government had promised safe haven to any German Nazis who were able to reach their country. In 1960 Israeli agents captured Eichmann and smuggled him to Israel, despite complaints from Argentina and demands that he should be sent back to them. Eichmann was tried in 1961, found guilty, and executed in 1962.

The film is as much about the interrogator Avner Less as it is about Eichmann himself. Less was a man dedicated to democracy and fair legal systems. His life was under threat from Jews who considered that Eichmann didn't deserve a trial and should be executed immediately.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Schoolgirl Report 7 (4 Stars)

"Four years have passed since the first Schoolgirl Report film was released in 1970. Has the world become less immoral since then?" These words are asked by the speaker at the beginning of the film. "No, but maybe it has become more honest".

As if to answer the question the story begins that builds the film's outer frame. Barbara, 16, visits a house where her older brother Albert is spending his time. She finds that he's running a brothel, in which girls from their school are working, making money from older men. A fight breaks out when a customer tries to rape Barbara, leading to a court case.

1. The first girl on the witness stand is Helga, 17, one of the prostitutes. She tells how she first had sex with a boy in the shower at school. After this she became addicted to sex, needing it three times a day, mostly while she was at school. Albert suggested that if she enjoyed sex so much she should be paid for it, and so she began to work in Albert's brothel.

2. While waiting outside the courtroom the witnesses discuss their opinions of schoolgirls and tell each other stories. The first talks about three girls who used to get free ice cream in an ice cream parlour by letting the waiter look up their skirts. Rinaldo Talamonti plays the horny waiter Carlo to perfection. Becoming greedy, the girls tempt Carlo into a hotel to get more from him. His wife follows him to the hotel, and there follows an episode in the style of the 1960's British farces, with naked men and women running through the hotel.

3. Another witness tells the story of Monika. She hitches a lift and invites the driver, naturally an older man, into a hut at the roadside to have sex. Once there she screams rape, and three bikers rush in, beat him up and rob him. Evidently she has been doing this for a while. But this time a priest who knows Monika witnesses the act and takes photographs of the assailants. He reports the incident to the police, but before they can interview him Monika has a brilliant idea. She visits the priest and confesses the robbery to him. This means he's bound by an oath of silence and can't tell the police anything. I wonder if that would really work? If any Catholic priests are reading this post please leave a comment. But in this case, the priest is smart as well. He dresses in normal clothes and drives around until he sees Monika hitchhiking again. He picks her up before she van recognise him, and drives her to the hut. The bikers begin to attack him, but the police are waiting outside.

4. Back into the courtroom. Carla, 17, is the most intelligent girl in her class. When asked by the judge why she prostitutes herself she tells the story of how she lost her virginity at 16. She had read books about sex and knew it all. Then she needed to find an older experienced man to do it with. She picked a 40-year-old friend of her father and made him have sex with her while giving him a running commentary on what he was doing. Just like in the text books. After that she became a prostitute because in her eyes prostitution is the only honest form of sex. She doesn't explain what she means by it, but I assume it's because both partners are open to one other what they want: one wants sex, the other wants money.

5. Now we see the witnesses again. Rosl Mayr is the landlady of the apartment where the brothel was run. Quite untypically for the whole series of films, she tells the other witnesses what it was like when she was young. Her sister went to school in a Bavarian village. A Prussian student teacher arrived on his first day. The children first made fun of him because he was unable to understand their accent. Then the girls bared their breasts for him to feel them. This scene is out of character, because it suggests that in the old days schoolgirls were even more provocative than they are today.

6. Now the defence attorney tells a story to the court that has nothing to do with the case. Gaby Ottermann was a young girl who had a crush on her History teacher. Unfortunately her teacher began to date her mother. In order to win him Gaby put on a wig and disguised herself as her mother. She waited in his house and had sex with him with the lights off so he wouldn't recognise her. After he realised his mistake he left the town to work in another school. Totally irrelevant to the case. Or am I missing something?

And finally the results of the case. Albert is found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison. The girls are not punished in any way, but the judge says they need to be educated. As Barbara is shown walking home through the streets of Berlin the speaker gives the summing up:

"Today's youth has difficulty adapting to the world of adults, but the courts have understanding for their difficulties, so today's youth can expect a better future."

Nice words, but what do they mean in the context of the film? Today's schoolgirls don't know what to do, so they become prostitutes, but they won't be punished so they'll be okay in the end? The film has a confused message, but let's not complain too much. This film has more comedy than any of the previous six installments, so let's accept it on that basis.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [Guest Writer] (4½ Stars)

Be warned that you may find minor spoilers in this review. 

The story: 
Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and rebellious computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) team up to investigate the unsolved disappearance of wealthy Henrik Vangers (Sven-Bertil Taube) teen niece (Ewa Froling), only to uncover dark secrets about Vanger's powerful family. Niels Arden Oplev directs this 2009 Swedish drama thriller based on the first novel from Stieg Larsson's est selling trilogy.

I have been intrigued by this movie since I first got wind of it. I can't quite remember when, but I clearly remember browsing the shelves of Blockbuster for a good movie to watch when I came across this movie and it's interesting and compelling cover shot on the box. I admit to picking it up, skimming the summary and tossing it back down with a shake of my head thinking that it couldn't possibly interest me - that it would be too slow-paced for me to get into, that since I wasnt aware of the actor/actresses' abilities that I didn't want to take the chance of buying a dud. I hate wasting my money and only spend it on things that I know I will enjoy and be satisfied with. I also remember flipping through channels and coming across it again. Remembering the interesting movie cover, I stopped for a bit to see what it was about since this wouldn't cost me a dime and within about five minutes I was flipping to another channel. The minute I realized that it was a foreign film I firmly tossed the idea out of my head that it would ever be an enjoyable film to suit my tastes.

I've probably stated this in previous posts and I'm sure I've told this to Mike quite a few times but I'll state it here as well: I really don't like foreign films outside Asian cinema. I've debated this with Mike on several occasions or rather we discussed it and I have come to the definite conclusion that I don't think I could ever enjoy a German film. I have nothing against the them as a country - Hitler and Nazi's aside - but the language is so harsh to my ears, that I would constantly be distracted and unable to truly immerse myself in the film. While this may seem totally irrelevant, I felt the same about this movie as well. I didn't know what language it was in and didn't even care to guess, but given my history with foreign films, I decided that I wasn't in the mood to take the chance. It makes me wonder why I decided to watch it while I was browsing on Netflix tonight for something to watch. I had heard there was an American adaption of this film starring Daniel Craig but they didn't have it listed. It was a bit unfortunate, but at the same time I'm a little glad that I got to see the Swedish adaption first instead.

I had read the reviews and since it got such high ratings I decided to take the plunge and I'm glad I did. Many of the reviews I read went on about Noomi Rapace, the female lead's, acting abilities. I thought to myself, "Oh I just have to see what all the fuss is about." I can honestly say that the praise was all well deserved and I'll add my own to the mix! It took me a few minutes to get used to adjusting to the language and reading the subtitles but years of watching subbed Anime and Asian films really helped me in tuning it out and getting into the story more. It starts off a bit slow and I found myself only marginally interested in the male lead's predicament because I'm waiting for Noomi's first appearance the entire time. Perhaps I wasn't giving Michael his due, but, to be honest, it was Noomi's appearance on the cover of that movie box so many years ago that caught my interest anyways. She had always been the main lead for me from the beginning so I guess it can't be helped.

When she finally made her appearance, I wasn't disappointed. I don't know what it is about her and her character. I'm used to seeing people in outrageous Gothic/punk attire with enough piercings to hang a curtain from or enough tattoos to exhibit as a one-person art show. So I don't think it was quite her outward appearance but the vibe that she gave off in the movie that captured me. Perhaps I let the opinions of the reviews I read influence me. Whatever the case, I was captured from the first. I will say that this movie is definitely not for the faint of heart for some. I've seen hundreds of horror movies with enough blood to fill an ocean but this made me uncomfortable on a way that no horror movie has ever been able to. My mother often says that movies where the horrors are more realistic (I.E. stalkers, rapists, etc) is much scarier than any hulking immortal figure with a machete or a scarred man with a glove of knives ready to kill you in your dreams ever could be. I have to admit that I'm starting to better understand what she said so long ago. At the time, I was quite young and just brushed it off as crazy talk for old people. Maybe this means I should start reserving my seat in a retirement home because this made me, cringe in a way that I can't remember doing. I actually had a hard time watching in some areas of the film (well particularly one or two areas) and I've seen quite a few graphic scenes in my day.

This movie contains graphic rape and while many movies usually just allude to raping in some other way, somehow the director and Noomi managed to capture these scenes so vividly that I found myself fidgeting in my seat, glancing away from my screen and wanting to take my headphones off to drown out her screams. The prevalent theme seems to be abuse and violence against women. You will notice it in almost every faucet but of the movie - from Lisbeth's past and family history to the plot of the movie. Honestly, I was surprised and stunned that I found myself staring so avidly at the screen, wanting to know what would happen next. Sometimes my hand would itch on the mouse to skip through the movie at a part I found a bit dragging to find out what would happen next but was afraid I would miss something good in doing so. All in all, I wouldn't say that I'm the hugest fan of drama thrillers. I much prefer high impact, fast-paced action and thriller movies so it surprised me how much I enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend this movie to everyone out there. I'm looking forward to seeing the others although I think I'll wait a bit before I see the next movie. I'll go through all the foreign adaptions because I'm hooked on Noomi now before I see the 2011 American remake/adaption. I'm a bit leery of it because of the US's obssession with remakes lately has gotten a bit out of hand and a lot of the movies they have made lately have been....subpar to my tastes. Since it has Daniel Craig in it, a favorite actor of mine since I took notice of him in his role as James Bond, I'll give it a shot and the benefit of the doubt.

Three Swedish Girls in Hamburg (4 Stars)

Now this is strange. The picture on the right is the official DVD cover for the 2011 release of this film. And yet the pretty girl in pink doesn't appear in the film. The cover below it, the 2008 release, is even worse. Three girls who don't appear in the film. There's no Swedish flag anywhere in the film. No speed boats. I don't understand it. Does the company responsible for the DVD think customers are completely stupid?

There were seven "Schwedinnen" (Swedish Girls) films from 1977 to 1983. They've been released for a relatively cheap price in a box set, but they don't really belong together.

1. Three Swedish Girls in Bavaria (1977)
2. Hurra, the Swedish Girls are here! (1978)
3. Three Swedish Girls in Hamburg (1980)
4. Six Swedish Girls on Holiday (1979)
5. Six Swedish Girls at the Gas Station (1980)
6. Six Swedish Girls in Ibiza (1981)
7. Six Swedish Girls in the Mountains (1983)

(The original titles are written below for my German readers).

No, I didn't make a mistake. That's the order the films are numbered in the box sets, even though the fourth film was made before the third.

The first two films fall into the category of typical Bavarian sex comedies. This was a genre in itself in the 1970's, which I can't go into here. Three different Swedish girls are featured in the two films, but many of the supporting characters are the same. Including the wonderful Rosl Mayr.

The last four films build a series in which (mostly) the same girls appear. These are films in the more pornographic style typical for German films in the 1980's.

The third film, which I'm reviewing here, falls into a category by itself. It's a coming-of-age drama with a touch of comedy added. If anything it's more in the style of American films made in the 1980's and later. It's the story of Lil, a Swedish girl at a boarding school in Germany. She has a crush on her Geography teacher,  Dr. Heilmann. She fantasises about him, and even though he rejects her advances she tells her friends Kirsten and Moni that she's having an affair with him. She tells them that she's going to meet him in Hamburg at the weekend, and they insist on coming along, so she has to sneak away pretending to spend time with him.

At the same time three boys from the same school, Pit, Dicky and Atze, travel to Hamburg in the hope of losing their virginity in the red light district. Pit meets Lil wandering around the streets, and a romance develops.

This is a very simple story, but somehow moving. Of the seven Swedish Girls films it's the one I watch the most often. I love stories about naive teenage romances. They make me feel good inside. I wonder what happened to Tanja Scholl, who plays the lead role of Lil. She's a beautiful young girl and a talented actress. This was her first and her last film. What a shame.

And, as promised, the original German titles of the seven Swedish Girls films:

1. Drei Schwedinnen in Oberbayern (1977)
2. Hurra, die Schwedinnen sind da (1978)
3. Drei Schwedinnen auf der Reeperbahn (1980)
4. Sechs Schwedinnen im Pensionat (1979)
5. Sechs Schwedinnen an der Tankstelle (1980)
6. Sechs Schwedinnen auf Ibiza (1981)
7. Sechs Schwedinnen auf der Alm (1983)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (4 Stars)

If there's ever a film that you might be tempted to buy just because of it's title, this is it. A film with this name has to perk your curiosity. IMDB describes it as a "kung-fu action comedy horror musical about the second coming". That aptly sums it up. This Canadian film was made on a small budget, but it's surprisingly good. The song and dance routines are well choreographed. The humour is irreverent and blasphemous, but it's funny.

Two priests discover that vampires are killing lesbians. They request help from Jesus, who has returned to Earth and is in the process of baptising disciples in Ottawa. I guess he needs to start somewhere. At first he says that his mission on Earth is more important than fighting vampires, but when three vampires arrive and kill the priests he changes his mind.

Jesus is aided in his battle against vampires by the leather clad biker girl Mary Magnum, but after she's killed he teams up with the masked Mexican wrestler El Santos. The film continues with amazing action including kung fu kicking Messiahs, lesbian vampire wrestlers and talking ice cream sundaes.

Click here to view the trailer to get a rough impression what the film's like. You may love it, but even if you hate it it's worth watching at least once.

Schoolgirl Report 6 (4 Stars)

This is the 6th installment of the culturally important Schoolgirl Report series. No, I'm not being sarcastic. Nobody who studies the German culture of the 1970's can ignore the significance of these films. German teachers in other countries should at least briefly mention the films, if they can do so without too much snickering from the class.

I remember this film fondly since it was the only film in the series that I managed to see in the cinemas. It was released in 1973, but I saw it round about 1980. In those days it was common for cinemas to show old films, either for one day only or for one showing a day for a week. It's a shame this is no longer done. The newest films aren't necessarily the best. It wasn't a sleazy backstreet cinema, as non-Germans might assume; it was a mainstream cinema on Ostendplatz in Stuttgart, a cinema that showed mainly new films alongside old classics like this.

This installment abandons the interspersed street interviews that we were used to from the first five parts. On the other hand, it returns to the Schilleresque pattern of nested stories within stories that we saw in the beginning of the series. It even starts in a similar way to the first film. Achim and Sibille, both 17, meet regularly in the classroom after school to have sex. They're discovered by a teacher "with their pants down", leading to a meeting with the teachers to discuss their fate. In the meeting they tell stories, anecdotes, about what schoolgirls do in and out of school.

1. Achim talks about the heavy petting between boys and girls in class while the lights are out to show films.

2. Achim reminds the class about a recent scandal in the school. A girl called Ingrid fell in love with the French teacher, Miss Lensing. She visits her at home and attempts to seduce her, but Miss Lensing is in love with Mr. Dornseif, the German teacher. As a result of being rejected Ingrid stalks the two teachers, taking photos of them together. Since Mr. Dornseif is married Ingrid tries to blackmail Miss Lensing to have sex with her, but she refuses so the photos are presented to the headmaster. As a result the teachers are transferred to other schools.

3. Sibille tells the meeting how she was raped by two schoolboys who dragged her into the female toilets.

4. Sibille recounts how she first fell in love with Achim when they met in the woods to study.

5. Sibille tells the story of Hans, a boy who had sex with every girl in his class. The other boys are jealous of him and angry because he's also had sex with some of their girlfriends. They gang up on him to beat him up, nothing serious, they just want to knock out a few of his teeth. He runs away from them and falls off a cliff to his death.

Now it's the turn of the teachers to tell stories to the group, and more importantly to us.

6. The first teacher gives a list of statistics which are backed up by brief film scenes.  For those who are interested I quote them in full:

"The Sexual Institute of the University of Hamburg has released the following figures as a result of questionnaires.

Sexual activity now begins three to four years earlier than in the last generation. Girls have their first period when they are 9 years old. At the age of 13 40-60% of boys and 20-30% of girls have masturbated. At the age of 16 it is 80-90% of boys and 30-50% of girls. Almost all boys and 50% of girls say they would rather have sexual intercourse than masturbate because masturbation arouses the emotional need for a partner.

Petting is the playing with the secondary and primary sexual organs without having intercourse. At 13 only 5-9% of children of both sexes have had experience with breast petting. At 15 it is 50%. At 16 it is 70% of boys and 80% of girls. Concerning petting with touching of the primary sexual organs, at 13 2-6% of children have had experience. At 15 it is 50% of boys and 60% of girls. It is noticeable that the percentage of girls is larger. Among those who have not yet had intercourse petting takes place once or twice a month. 60% of boys and 40% of girls have had an orgasm through petting.

At 15 10% of girls and 15% of boys have had sexual intercourse. In certain places it is much more. For instance, in a class of 14-year-olds in a girls school in Rhineland 47 out of 48 girls were no longer virgins. By 16 30% of girls and 35% of boys have had sex. At 17 it is 50% of all young people.

67% of fathers and 41% of mothers do not know that their daughters have had sexual intercourse."

I'm curious what the statistics would be today, almost 40 years after the film was made.

7. In a classroom a short-sighted teacher is giving sex education from a feminist standpoint. While she's speaking the window is being cleaned by the one and only Rinaldo Talamonti. I'll call him Rinaldo because the window cleaner isn't named in the film. Rinaldo climbs in through the window, unnoticed by the teacher. One by one he takes girls behind the cupboards to have sex with them. Finally the teacher mistakes him for a girl and asks him to draw a penis on the blackboard. Unfortunately Rinaldo had forgotten to get dressed after being with the last girl. When the teacher puts on her glasses and sees a naked man in front of her she faints.

8. Marlies is a 15-year-old girl, the daughter of a poor construction worker. Her boyfriend is Herbert, a rich farmer. Her father finds them together naked and threatens to call the police. Herbert offers the father 200 Marks (about $125) to stay quiet. This gives the father an idea. He invites his friends to have sex with her for 100 Marks each. This goes on for months before she finally runs away. Luckily Herbert finds her and tells her he wants to marry her.

9. Lilo is 18 and in love with her sports teacher, Mr. Brinkmann. Evidently the school has a limited budget, because the teachers and the children of both sexes all have to use the same showers. The girls shower first, the men later. Lilo waits in the shower until Mr. Brinkman arrives and has no difficulty seducing him. They then begin a love affair, meeting in secret because he's married. The teacher telling the story says that teachers are at a disadvantage and deserve our sympathy. In all other careers men can meet women at work and have sex, but teachers aren't allowed to. After his wife discovers the affair Mr. Brinkmann decides to break off the relationship. When Lilo refuses he beats her and leaves her to walk home half naked. Luckily Lilo is picked up by a boy her own age on the way home and they fall in love. And they live happily ever after.

Finally we see the resolution of the meeting with the teachers. Achim's mother says she will send her son to a boarding school. The teachers are satisfied that the children will be separated and decide to take no action against Sibille. But the voiceover at the end tells us that the adults, teachers and parents alike, have done everything wrong. If young people truly love one another they should be allowed to have sex, even if it's on the classroom floor. This is the message we're sent home with.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Broadcast News (1 Star)

In 1987 this film was nominated for seven Oscars, including best film. I just don't understand it. The film bored me from beginning to end. I only watched it to the end because I'd already read rave reviews and I expected something exciting to happen. It didn't.

The film is about three employees in the news division of a television company. Jane is the workaholic producer, Aaron is a talented but bland news reporter, Tom is the charismatic news anchor. Both Aaron and Tom fall for Jane, and she's torn between the two.

For me the love triangle is unconvincing and not at all moving. I couldn't sympathise with either of the men, both are unpleasant characters in different ways. I couldn't relate to the chaos of the news business. The film was touted as a comedy, but to me it wasn't funny. Maybe it's just too American for me. I checked the list of the many awards and nominations the film received, and apart from two at the Berlin Film Festival all the awards were American. That could be the problem. Maybe it's a film that only appeals to Americans. Please leave comments if you have anything to say about this film.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman [Guest Writer] (4 Stars)

All right, after the multitude of nagging from he-who-shall-remain-nameless-but-still-get-stoned-with-rocks I decided to do another review. I was happy to hear that my review of Ip Man was so well received. Go me! So I recently went to go see this in theaters and at first I wasn't even intending to see this originally. I had wanted to see Battleship but since I was 30 minutes late for the movie I decided to opt out for the time being and see this one instead since it did have a favourite actress of mine - Charlize Theron. So before I go on let me lay down the background of this story as I'm sure everyone knows already.

The story:
Snow White is the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen. Unable to tolerate the insult to her vanity, the evil queen decides that Snow White must die. The queen sends a huntsman to kill Snow White. However the huntsman finds himself unable to murder the innocent young woman and instead ends up training her to become a warrior capable of threatening the queen's reign.

So when I first saw the preview for this movie I was skeptical, hell I was more than skeptical I was in downright disbelief that this could be even close to anything good. Kristen Stewart has not instilled me with any faith in her acting with her Twilight films on her resume. I hated Twilight which is why you will never find me doing a review on it on this site because it wasn't even worth the time to write about it. She never seems to play a character for me but it feels more like she's acting as herself playing a character if that makes sense. She's kind of like Sandra Bullock but I love Sandra far far far more than I love Kristen any day of the week. There are some actors that don't have the ability to immerse themselves in a role to the point of becoming that other person because we always see them as their real persona, their acting persona - not the character. Although Sandra did a wonderful job in Blind Side (I'll be doing a review of that soon enough so stay tuned).  Next to Kristen was Chris Hemsworth who bored me to tears in his portrayal of Thor in "Thor" and "The Avengers". Despite all the bruhaha that came from it, as you can read in my previous review of Thor, I wasn't impressed. So, yeah, I was extremely skeptical about paying 8 dollars to see this on the big screen. The only saving grace to my mind for this movie that made me remotely interested in it was Charlize. I love Charlize. I loved her in Aeon Flux. I loved her in Monster. I love her - period. I wouldn't say that she is the most spectacular actress I have ever seen or my #1 favourite but she is on my list. She played the villain quite nicely and had me enthralled every time. Kristen was also a bit of a surprise although she does have a long way to go with her acting, it was an improvement from her recent films (mainly Twilight). I wonder if this improvement is because she was working along Charlize and other notable actors. The world may never know. Chris didn't do so bad himself and I think this role fit him pretty well.

The story was very dark and edgy which I enjoyed very well. The backgrounds and scenes were vivid, dark, and sometimes fantastical. The creatures gave it that "Grimm Brothers" feel which I'm a fan of rather than the Disney rendition. Overall it was a good film. It won't win any awards in my book but it is worth a watch. Is it worth the movie ticket? Hmm, now that one I'm on the fence about. I don't quite regret paying for the ticket to see it in theaters although I still do wish I could've seen Battleship. Oh well, give it a watch and make your own judgements!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Schoolgirl Report 5 (4 Stars)

After a seven month break I've returned to watching the German Schoolgirl Report films. You can find links to my previous reviews at the end of this post. I'll probably watch the rest of the installments this month. Probably. While I like to watch a film series together, I also like to vary my viewing.

The recurring theme of this film is schoolgirls with older men. While this theme was touched in the previous films, it's more obvious here, occurring in six out of the seven episodes.

1. During a school outing in the woods Petra bets two of her classmates 20 ice cream sundaes that she can seduce the assistant teacher. "He won't sleep with you, he's not an idiot, he knows the consequences" -- "He's a man. When his thing goes up he loses his understanding." Too true. After she lures him into a cabin and takes her clothes off he goes wild and throws caution to the wind.

2. Margit (15) lusts for her grandfather. She threatens to accuse him of rape if he doesn't have sex with her regularly. Eventually the grandfather repents and confesses to her parents and the police.

3. Peter (18) and Gabi (16) are both virgins. They want sex with one another, but when they get together they're inexperienced and clumsy. Gabi decides to seduce her 40-year-old lodger, who willingly shows her what to do. Peter asks his Aunt Erika for advice, and she seduces him. The next time they meet Peter and Gabi have sex, and they live happily ever after.

4. This is the longest episode in the film and stars Ingrid Steeger as Eva (17). Eva goes to a Catholic school and is in love with the priest who teaches religion. After he refuses her attempts to seduce him she decides to take revenge. She arranges for a biker to beat up the priest, but surprisingly the priest is a better fighter. This impresses her so much that she attempts to seduce him again, and this time she succeeds. The priest lets himself be transferred to another town, but Eva finds him. When she tells him that she's pregnant he decides to leave the priesthood and marry her -- "I can serve God in other careers" -- because he would rather be a good father than a bad priest.

5. Now for a comic interlude starring the regulars Rinaldo Talamonti and Rosl Mayr. Uschi (16) is a sexually active girl. Her classmate Inge is still a virgin, so Uschi takes her to the school showers which are currently being repaired by the plumbers Luigi (Rinaldo Talamonti) and Franz. Uschi pairs up with Franz, while Luigi takes Inge into another room. This is where the comedy starts. Luigi is a small man, Inge is tall, so his head only comes up to her breasts. He wants to have sex with her standing up, so he has to stand on a crate. When the crate falls away Inge runs around with Luigi on her back. And in walks the school's headmistress, played by Rosl Mayr. She doesn't have to say anything funny. She just has to stand there and talk. Her accent and the expression on her face are so hilarious.

6. Steffi (18) is still a virgin. She picks up an older man in a cafe, Edgar. They have a wild relationship and she becomes addicted to sex, demanding it from him every day. After three months he leaves her, confessing that he has a wife and children. Steffi has sex with one man after another, but none of them are as good as Edgar. Then she's spotted one day by her classmates. They make fun of her for preferring older men, and say that as her classmates they deserve to have sex with her as well. Five boys take her into a warehouse where military equipment is stored and take turns raping her.

7. The last episode is the only one that doesn't involve an older man. Not much older, anyway. Ruth (17) is mocked by her classmates because she's still a virgin. They take her to a club where a student called Henry works as a part-time gigolo. They pay him to have sex with her, but when they're he thinks that she's too nice to have sex with him and refuses to go ahead with it. After this Henry and Ruth begin a relationship which finally culminates in sex. Love first, sex later. Right? Most of the Schoolgirl Report films end with a happy ending to send the cinema visitors home with a smile on their face.

Is this a good film or a bad film? It depends on what you're looking for. Despite the sleazy subject matter, it's not a pornographic film. Some people will consider the film has too much sex, others will say it doesn't have enough. As a fan of 1970's German sex films I love it. I give it 4 stars, but judge it for yourself. If you understand German well enough to watch it.

Schoolgirl Report was reviewed here.
Schoolgirl Report 2 was reviewed here.
Schoolgirl Report 3 was reviewed here.
Schoolgirl Report 4 was reviewed here.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

She lives by night (4 Stars)

I watch a lot of vampire films. Vampires fascinate me, they have for a long time. It all started when I first saw the film "Vamp" on television way back in the 1980's. I can't remember the year, but I was on holiday in Scotland at the time. I'm surprised I didn't mention it when I reviewed the film. I have a very large number of vampire films on DVD, ranging from classic gothic horror to comedies and erotic vampire movies. I still haven't found my perfect film, but two of my favorites are "Shadow of the Vampire" and "We are the night". I have mixed feelings about "Queen of the Damned", which is a good film but fails to live up to Anne Rice's novel on which it's based.

"She lives by night" is a low budget film made in 2001. Roger is driving home late at night. He knocks over a woman who is physically uninjured by the accident, but she loses her memory. Despite what the DVD cover says she can remember her name, but that's about all. Roger takes her into his house to look after her, and a romance develops between them, but she acts strangely. She sleeps all day and slips out of the house at night.

The word "vampire" is never used in the film, but it's obvious that that is what she is. She wears a cross and has a reflection in mirrors, but she drinks blood. A simple story, slow moving, but enjoyable to anyone who likes vampire films.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Mr. Holland's Opus (4 Stars)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I bought this film because it was highly recommended by a friend. It wasn't her recommendation alone. The majority of reviews I read online were positive, and Richard Dreyfuss was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in this film.

A young man, Glenn Holland, becomes a high school music teacher in 1964. Not out of enthusiasm for teaching, merely because he didn't have anything else. "I'm nervous. Boy, I never thought I'd be here. Like most people I only got my teaching certificate so I'd have something to fall back on. And now I have." At first he's totally disillusioned because the children have no interest in what he teaches them about classical music. He only begins to have success when he shows them that rock'n'roll has musical structures in common with Beethoven. But still it's a daily fight to inspire the children.

At home all is not well. Glenn has a son who he hopes will become a great composer. He names him Coltrane Gershwin Holland, though he nicknames him Cole. But Cole is deaf, which alienates Glenn. He largely ignores him and doesn't even succeed in learning sign language to communicate with him. He puts other children ahead of his own son. A recurring theme is Glenn's "opus", after which the film is named. Before joining the school he started to write a symphony which would make him famous, but as the years pass by he keeps changing it and adding to it, but it's never completed.

The story progresses in intervals up to 1980, punctuated by events in political and musical history. The Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, "Saturday Night Fever" and the Sex Pistols are mentioned in passing. The final big event is the murder of John Lennon, which is crucial in repairing the relationship with Cole.

From here we leap forward to 1995. Times have changed. Glenn has been a teacher for over 30 years. I won't say anything more to avoid spoilers.

I admit that for the first hour of the film I had difficulty watching it. It seemed erratic, meandering on aimlessly without any direction. I even considered turning it off. I'm glad I remained patient. As it continued it gained in emotional depth, and the seemingly random strands of plot were tied together, leading to a dramatic climax. This is a deeply moving film that I would recommend to anyone. Especially to teachers.

Click here to view the trailer.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Jubilee (4 Stars)

Queen Elisabeth I asks her court advisers what the future will be like. They summon the archangel Ariel, who gives her a vision of England in 1977. England is in a state of anarchy. London is burning, while people sit at home and watch "Top of the Pops". The monarchy has fallen, and a Fascist record producer has bought the palaces, where he lives with his old friend Adolf Hitler.

The message of this film is clearly "No Future". There are memorable performances by Jenny Runacre, Toyah Willcox and Adam Ant. The soundtrack is better than the film itself and contains some incredible 1970's songs by artists from the punk era such as Suzi Pinns, Adam Ant, Wayne County and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Before his death in 1994 director Derek Jarman released his films, including this one, into the public domain. The full length film can be viewed on YouTube here.

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Illusionist (4 Stars)

This is a fascinating story that takes place in Austria at the end of the 19th Century. The story starts in Hungary, where a young boy called Eduard, a carpenter's son, meets a travelling magician and begins to learn conjuring tricks. He meets the Duchess Sophie von Teschen while she is riding, he shows her his tricks, and they fall in love. But in those days a romance between a pauper and a noble was not allowed, so he leaves to travel the world, studying magic at the feet of the world's greatest magicians.

15 years later he returns and appears in Vienna using the stage name Eisenheim. He dazzles audiences with tricks, and the police inspector becomes a fan of his, watching closely at all times to discover the secret of his tricks. Prince Leopold, a man with ambitions to become ruler of Germany, visits the performances, and we see that his fiancee is Duchess Sophie. The romance flares up again, leading to retaliation from Prince Leopold.

For me the real stars of this film aren't Edward Norton and Jessica Biel, who play Eisenheim and Sophie. Rufus Sewell and Paul Giamatti, who play Prince Leopold and Inspector Uhl, are the ones who dazzle with their on-screen presence. Rufus Sewell, though not so well known, is an outstanding actor. I first saw him in "Dark City", but I find him most suitable when playing a bad guy, such as King Agamemnon in "Helen of Troy". Very few actors are as skilled at playing evil characters. Maybe Gary Oldman, I can't think of anyone else at the moment. Paul Giamatti excels as the police inspector who means well, but has to do what the prince says if he wants to keep his job.

Click here to view the trailer.