Monday, 27 March 2017

Lammbock (3 Stars)

A day in the life? This is more like a week in the life of two drug dealers in southern Germany, somewhere near Würzburg.

Stefan and Kai are two young men who own a pizza delivery service which they call Lammbock. What makes their company special is that they also deliver marijuana. When you call them all you have to do is ask for the Special, and a small bag is added to the pizza. It's the perfect cover.

What they don't reckon with is that their crop of home-grown marijuana is struck with lice. The only person who can help them fight the lice is Achim, an undercover policeman. He's supposed to turn over criminals to his police colleagues, but in his undercover work he's come to appreciate marijuana, so his loyalties are divided between the police and his new friends.

I call this a day-in-the-life film because it lacks the character arcs that are usual in films of any genre. The two lead characters don't go anywhere. They don't develop. At the end of the film they're back where they were at the beginning, and it's doubtful that they've learnt anything from their adventures.

The film has some action in it, but it's more about the talking. It has a lot of similarities with "Reservoir Dogs", which is made more obvious by blunt references to the film in the dialogue. Maybe "Lammbock" has too much talking and not enough action. As an attempt to make a German Tarantino film it doesn't quite succeed. The magic is misssing.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Power Rangers (3 Stars)

I didn't expect this film to be very good, but the trailers looked pleasantly flashy so I gave it a chance. I should have listened to my initial instincts.

The film goes through three phases.

1. The teenagers meet and become friends. This is the best part of the film. It's the equal of any American high school drama series.

2. The teenagers gain their powers and begin training. This theme has been done in countless other films, usually better. It's watchable, but nothing special.

3. The teenagers go into battle. This phase looks ridiculously silly. We can't relate to the villain, and the kids themselves have no distinct identities as super-heroes. If it weren't for their five different colours it would be impossible to tell them apart.

I'll be generous and give "Power Rangers" three stars. From what I've read the film has been highly praised in audience polls. It seems to be aimed at young teenagers who wants films that are flashy and trashy with a lot of wham-bam-wallop. This is supposedly the first of six Power Rangers films. I doubt I'll watch the other five.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Thor: Dark World (5 Stars)

This has become one of the films that I watch the most, second only to "The Life of Pi". For that reason I don't have anything to say about it today, except that I've increased its rating to five stars. In the past my main reason for deducting half a star was that I found Dr. Selvig's madness annoying. After repeated viewing I've learnt to put up with it.

Oops. Are my screenshots from the film in this post spoilers?

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Friday, 24 March 2017

TV Series: The Flash

The last few days I've been watching "The Flash". I'm growing to like the series, as you can see by the fact that this is the second article I've written about it within a week.

The series features Candice Patton as Iris West, shown in the picture above. In the series she's a blogger, like me. Well, maybe not quite like me. Check out the following example of her blog posts, which we see in season one episode five. You can click on the screenshot to enlarge it.

As you can see, when she runs out of things to write she simply repeats the same text and hopes that nobody will notice. The second paragraph begins with the same words that she wrote in the middle of the first paragraph. I'm not as sloppy as her. I write good posts.

Something about Candice Patton has been bugging me. It seemed somehow familiar. Now I know where I've seen it before. As Iris West she has the same open-mouthed amazed smile when she sees the Flash that Chloe Sullivan used to have in "Smallville". I don't think it's a coincidence. Candice Patton and Allison Mack must be related. Remotely.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Cloud Nine (3 Stars)

I find this film very depressing. Maybe I'm in the minority. Other critics praise the film's positive, uplifting messages. When the film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 it was given a ten minute standing ovation. I can understand that people like it because it's an original film, dealing with a taboo topic: sex between old people.

Werner and Inge are an elderly couple who live in Berlin. Inge is 69, Werner is 72. They've been married for more than 30 years. Inge has a part time job sewing clothes, whereas Werner devotes his spare time to his hobby: trains. It's a strange hobby that his wife doesn't share with him. He listens to recordings of trains pulling into stations. Why he would want to listen to recordings of trains is unfathomable, because a busy train line runs past their back door. I tried to locate the house, based on clues in the film. I can't be certain, but it has to be either in Pankow or Prenzlauer Berg, both areas in the former eastern zone of Berlin.

Inge falls in love with Karl, one of her customers. He's 76, older than her husband, but slightly fitter because he cycles a lot. The word "love" is stretching the description of their relationship. It's pure lust. The two have almost nothing in common, she just visits him to have sex. She confesses the affair to her daughter and talks about having butterflies in her stomach, but it's not romantic, it's just the feelings of physical desire in her.

Inge doesn't want to leave her husband. She still cares for him, but she wants the excitement of a sexual relationship with another man. Is she totally stupid? Doesn't she realise what she's giving up? It's not like her husband is mistreating her in any way. From the beginning of the film we see him treating his wife affectionately.

Even though the word isn't used in the film, it's about polyamory. The word has different definitions. Two conflicting definitions are:

1. the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all the people involved.

2. the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.

I've spoken to people who consider themselves polyamorous, and they always use the second definition. "I have too much love to give it all to one person". They're lying to themselves and to others. What they really mean is "I don't have enough love to dedicate myself to one person". If they stuck to the first definition there wouldn't be a problem.

Polyamory is always about sex. Sex feels good, we all know that. A person might not be prepared to settle down, so he or she can have multiple sexual partners for pleasure. I don't judge that. If his partners are happy with the situation it's okay. What isn't okay is to claim that he loves everyone he sleeps with. He's degrading the word Love.

If a man and a woman love one another they'll be faithful. I have been in many relationships in my life, some more serious than others, and I was always faithful. Sometimes I felt tempted, even during my serious relationships, but I loved my partner too much to risk my relationship for sexual pleasure. After 30 years of marriage Inge should have known better.

"Cloud Nine" is praised for showing that an old woman can enjoy sex just as much as a teenager. I criticise it for showing that an old woman can be as stupid as a teenager.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A Cure For Wellness (4 Stars)

This is a film that's been savaged by the critics, but friends of mine who saw the film in England last month highly recommended it, so I had a choice. Do I listen to highly devoted film fans or the narrow-minded critics? That's a rhetorical question. I arrived at the cinema with my money in my hand.

The film begins in New York, but after the introductory scenes it continues in Switzerland. Roland Pembroke, the CEO of a large finance company, has gone to spend a few weeks in a health spa in Switzerland. The board of directors waits patiently for him to return, but they receive a letter from him -- a hand-written letter, not an email -- that he intends to remain in the health spa indefinitely. That raises panic, because they need his signature to agree to a merger. The board decides to send a young executive, Mr. Lockhart (whose first name is never disclosed), to persuade him to return.

And so Lockhart heads to the Swiss Alps, where he finds the spa housed in a castle on a mountain. The suspicious villagers who lived at the foot of the mountain already gave me a clue about what was to come. On his arrival Lockhart is obstructed in his attempts to speak to Mr. Pembroke. He decides to stay overnight at a hotel in the village, but on the way his taxi collides with a deer. He wakes up in the health spa three days later with his leg in a plaster cast. The head of the spa, Dr. Vollmer, offers to let him stay until his leg has healed. Lockhart agrees, but as he gets to know the other residents at the health spa he becomes aware of one fact: nobody ever leaves.

The film is delightful in many ways. The first half of the film is a Kafkaesque nightmare. Lockhart is repeatedly told that he's a patient in the spa, not a prisoner, but whenever he attempts to leave there are obstructions. It's also a mystery, as Lockhart tries to unveil the reason why nobody wants to leave. Then there's a horror story about the Baron who lived in the castle 200 years ago, a mad scientist who performed experiments on living humans to cure his wife's infertility. All the different stories intertwine to form a whole.

A few small facts detract from the overall quality. There are some unnecessary subplots. The opening scene with Morris, another company executive, dying of a heart attack, is superfluous to the story, and is only briefly mentioned later on. Lockhart's mother's psychic abilities add nothing to the story. The illegal dealings of Lockhart's company are also irrelevant. "A Cure For Wellness" has a running time of 146 minutes, and I have nothing against long films in principle, but if the unnecessary scenes were cut it would shorten the film and make the story much tighter.

The critics are wrong. It isn't a bad film, but it could have been better.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Kong: Skull Island (4 Stars)

This is the third remake of the 1933 film "King Kong". Was it necessary? That depends on the way you look at it. Peter Jackson's version, made in 2005, was such a towering cinematic achievement that it could never be equalled in quality, let alone surpassed. However, Warner Bros wants to make a film about a battle between Godzilla and King Kong, maybe followed by battles with other monsters, which would be difficult, considering that the 2005 version ended with King Kong's death. This means it was necessary for "King Kong" to be remade yet again, this time leaving the giant monkey alive.

It's obvious the film was intended to be a blockbuster. Several big stars were thrown into it, enough to attract any film goer. If I have to list the film's strong points, that's the biggest advantage. Samuel L. Jackson puts on an epic performance as the army colonel with a madness akin to Captain Ahab, driven by revenge. I can't remember when I was so impressed by him. John C. Reilly has never been one of my favourite actors, but he wowed me in his role as the abandoned US pilot. John Goodman also impressed me as the seasoned scientist. Tom Hiddleston is just Tom Hiddleston, he can't do a thing wrong. Those four actors carried the film for me. In comparison, Brie Larson was dull, maybe because I was comparing her with Naomi Watts. Jing Tian is one of my favourite actresses, but she was underused, spending too much time in the background. I hope we'll see more of her in the sequel.

Unfortunately, the film is less than the sum of its parts. It was let down by the silly story, which was little more than a last-man-standing yarn, in which all the minor characters were killed one by one while the major characters miraculously avoided death. In previous versions the other monsters on the island were an assortment of dinosaurs, but in "Kong: Skull Island" they're weird looking lizards and birds, plus a walking tree. I expected stunning special effects, but I was surprised to see that despite the advances in computer wizardry over the last 12 years the special effects aren't as good as in Peter Jackson's film.

"Kong: Skull Island" isn't a bad film, and it's better than the 1976 version, but it falls way behind the quality of the other two versions.

I almost forgot to mention the music. The film is set in 1972, so the music is all taken from the early 1970's. A lot of the music isn't just incidental music, it's music that's being played on a portable record player that the soldiers are carrying with them. To me the music was more thrilling than the film itself. When Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" began I couldn't control myself, I had to sing along with Ozzy. Not loud enough to disturb the other cinema guests, of course.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Logan (5 Stars)

As soon as I saw the first trailer in the cinema I knew this would be a different sort of X-Men film. If anything, Hugh Jackman himself must have insisted on the film being a change from his previous roles as Wolverine. He said well in advance that he wanted his next film as Wolverine to be his last. After eight films spread out over 17 years he felt that he was growing too old to play the role. He wanted his ninth and last film to be different. He's succeeded.

During Wolverine's lifetime it was commonly assumed that he's immortal. In the chronology of the X-Men films he was more than 100 years when he joined the team. In "Logan" we see that he's not immortal, he just ages slowly. The film takes place in the near future, 2029. His healing powers are failing, and he takes longer to recover from injuries. Some injuries don't heal at all, as we see from the fact that he walks with a limp. He's given up being a hero and prefers to use his birth name, Logan. He's a limousine driver, struggling to make a living.

All of his former companions in the X-Men are gone, presumably dead. The only survivor is Charles Xavier, formerly one of the most powerful mutants on Earth. Charles is suffering from dementia and has trouble controlling his powers. He has frequent seizures that cause everyone around him pain or paralysis. Charles is being kept in a fortified building in an uninhabited territory in Mexico where he can't hurt anyone. Logan visits him and brings him medication to calm him down.

Logan can't escape the past, however much he tries. In Mexico a woman approaches him who recognises him as Wolverine. She begs him to take her 11-year-old daughter to North Dakota, but why?

The film tells a very powerful story. It's a dark story that takes place in a dark world. To say more would give away too much of the plot for those who haven't seen it yet. However much I may have liked Hugh Jackman in the past, in "Logan" he gives the best performance of his life. It's probably the best of the X-Men and Wolverine films so far. I'll have to watch all nine back to back to make sure.

Up until now it's the most successful film of 2017, having earned $523 million at the box office. That's well deserved. It's also my favourite film of the year so far.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Off-Topic: Internet Censorship

Two years ago I wrote a post complaining about Internet censorship. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) asked the company American Apparel to remove an image of a model advertising a body suit because she looked like she was under 16. It was irrelevant that the model, Kacy Anne Hill, was 20 at the time the photo was taken. All that mattered was the warped fantasies of the ASA who looked at an adult woman and immediately started fantasising about young girls.

After reading about the censorship I was fortunate enough to find that the allegedly offensive photo of Kacy was still on the American Apparel web site. It was removed later in the evening, so I posted it on my blog to protest against Internet censorship. I searched the American Apparel web site for other photos of Kacy, and I found 39 similar images which I saved to my hard drive. Within three days these photos were also removed from the site. As a result I decided to post a complete gallery of the 40 images to protect them from being lost forever.

I'm very pleased with the way my posts and the gallery have been received. On the day that I posted the photo it was nowhere else on the Web (according to Google). A week later it was on two other web sites. Now, two years later, the photo is available on 23 different websites, on many of them in its original size (1035 x 1380 pixels). I am proud that I am personally responsible for saving this photo from censorship. Today, as I write these words, my post about Kacy Anne Hill is the most viewed page in my blog. I hope that my readers will continue to download and share all 40 of her photos.

The main reason for my post was to make a stand against Internet censorship, but I also did it because I know it's what Kacy wants. She said in an interview that she finds the complaints about her photo ridiculous. I have the greatest possible respect for Kacy, and I am doing whatever I can to keep her photos alive. I hope that she will read these words and they will make her smile.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

TV Series: The Flash

This afternoon I watched the first three episodes of the DC television series, "The Flash". Yes, I know I'm two years late. I never watch television as it's broadcast live. Most of the stuff that's broadcast is junk, so when I lived in England I didn't even have a television license. In Germany the law is different, unfortunately. Every household must pay for a television license, whether they own a television or not. There have been numerous court cases by people who think this is unfair, but none have succeeded.

For those of you who don't know much about the character, apart from what they've seen on television, the Flash is a character who first appeared in DC Comics in Showcase #4 in October 1956. This was an anthology comic which featured different characters each month as a trial. The more popular characters, based on the response from reader letters, were given their own comic. The Flash was featured in another three issues of Showcase, issues #8, #13 and #14. Finally he was given his own comic in March 1959 which ran for 26 years, until October 1985. The comic was cancelled due to his death in a storyline, but as all fans of Marvel and DC comics know, "Nobody stays dead except for Uncle Ben", so he came back to life in 2009. Some guys have all the luck.

Some comic fans are probably shouting at me to tell me that the Flash started much earlier, in Flash Comics #1 in January 1940. Yes and No. There was a character called the Flash who appeared for 104 issues of Flash Comics from 1940 to 1949, but it was a different Flash. He was a college student called Jay Garrick. The character who was introduced in 1956 was a police forensic expert called Barry Allen, a man who liked to read comics about Jay Garrick, the Flash.

After being struck by lightning Barry Allen adopted the name of the hero in the comics he loved so much, and he even based his costume on the comic. What he didn't know is that the character in the comics really existed. The author of the comics, Gardner Fox, claimed to have written stories that he dreamt about. In actual fact he was having visions of a parallel universe. A few years later (in Flash issue #123, September 1961) Barry accidentally travelled to this other world and met his hero. Over the following years there were other meetings between the two Flashes.

That's an interesting plot device, something I like about the story. In the comic someone reads a comic about a person he considers to be fictional, but is actually real. This provokes the question whether the comics that we read today are real or not. It's the opposite scenario to "The Matrix". In "The Matrix" it's suggested that there's a world outside of the one we live in. In the Flash comics it's suggested that there's another world inside our world.

Barry Allen was blond in the comics. A notably large percentage of the male heroes in the 1950's and 1960's comics had blond, bright yellow hair. I'm not sure why this was. Maybe it was a beauty ideal of the time. Maybe it was just because it was easier to draw. On a side note, it was customary for comics to draw black-haired people with blue hair, to avoid a black splodge of ink on the page. Blue looked like black on casual reading.

Ginger hair was also very common in the comics of the 1950's and 1960's, also intended to give a contrast between the characters. Barry Allen's girlfriend, Iris West, was ginger. It's a shame that she's fallen victim to the modern racist policy of making one major comic book character in each film and TV series black.

Yet another case of miscasting by studio executives who have no respect for the original comics. Barry should be blond, Iris should be ginger.

That brings me up to the current series, of which I've now watched the first three episodes. The series has a different feeling to the comics. Barry Allen is a forensic scientist, like in the comics, but he seems to be younger. His age isn't explicitly stated, neither in the comics nor the TV series, but in the comics he was very much an adult. If I had to peg his age I'd estimate he was about 30. In the series Barry Allen is played by Grant Gustin, who was 23 when the series began, but he looks and acts younger. I assume he's intended to be a college graduate at the beginning of his career, which would make him at least 21, but he looks and acts like a teenager. In his voice-overs he sounds like a clone of Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man.

The TV series tones down the silliness that I hated in the early DC comics. In the series his speed is top speed is measured at 347 miles per hour. Maybe he gets faster in later episodes, I'll see when I get to them. In the comics he breaks the sound barrier in his first adventure, within two days of gaining his powers. which would mean he was running at 767 miles per hour. In his second adventure he ran faster than the speed of light, so fast that he could break the time barrier and run forwards and backwards through time.

I jumped for joy when I saw that John Wesley Shipp plays the part of Barry's father, Henry Allen. I wasn't expecting to see him. He played Barry Allen in the previous Flash television series in 1990. As I remember, it wasn't as good as the new series as far as the special effects were concerned, but it had some very good stories. I need to watch it again.

But you have to admit that John Wesley Shipp's costume was closer to the original than Grant Gustin's costume. Why do they have to change everything? It's not right. Rather than invent new costumes for super-heroes the producers should look at the comics and try to copy the old costumes as closely as possible.

Before I finish, I'd like to point out that two newspaper reports were shown on computer screens in the second episode. Both articles are a shambles. The same texts are repeated over and over again. If you don't believe me, you can click on the following screenshots to enlarge them. That's so sloppy.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

David Brent: Life on the Road (4½ Stars)

"You don't have to be on stage to be worth something".

This is a sequel to the TV series "The Office", which ran from 2001 to 2003. We had to wait 13 years for the film, but it was worth the wait. In the TV series David Brent was the manager of a paper company in Slough, supposedly the dullest town in England. I need to visit Slough one day to see if it's true. Since then he had a nervous breakdown and spent some time in a psychiatric facility. He now works as a sales representative for Lavichem, a company that sells exciting sanitary products such as tampons. David isn't satisfied with being a sales rep for the rest of his life. He dreams of becoming a big rock star.

"The Office" had a unique self-ironic format which confused television audiences and made it a failure when it was first broadcast. It was made in the style of a fly-on-the-wall reality show, with cameras following the activities of the company Wernham Hogg. The characters were aware they were being filmed and frequently spoke to the camera, as well as asynchronous interviews being blended in. However, it was an unreal reality show, since the company didn't exist. "The Office" is usually called a mockumentary, but I don't think the term applies. It wasn't a mockery of a documentary, it was a mockery of the reality shows that were becoming popular in the early 2000's.

"The Office" was conceived and written by Ricky Gervais, who also played David Brent. It was ahead of its time. It was cancelled after two seasons because of poor viewer figures, but it was posthumously hailed as a classic. It's now regularly shown as a rerun in England and all over the world.

"Life on the Road" follows David Brent as he takes three weeks unpaid vacation to make it big as a rock star. He hires musicians and a roadie, and off he goes to perform six gigs in Berkshire. For him it's all about the experience. He stays in hotels with the band, even though all six towns are close enough to commute from home.

The film's humour comes from David Brent's social awkwardness, more accurately from his ignorance of his social awkwardness. He alienates the other band members by unknowingly insulting them, and he alienates the audiences by singing inept protest songs. He never lacks confidence in himself, so when things go wrong he blames others.

There's an underlying tragic element to the story which uplifts the film from being only a comedy to a work of social significance. David Brent says he wants to be famous, but in actual fact he just wants people to like him. For some people it's easy to be popular, but for most of us it's a struggle to make friends. In David Brent we see an exaggerated portrayal of ourselves, so when we laugh at him we're really laughing at ourselves.

Ricky Gervais is a comic genius. "Genius" is an over-used word, but in his case it's appropriate. He can be funny without being funny. He excels in films like this.

In England the film has been released on Blu-ray, but Netflix has bought the exclusive rights in all other countries, so you can only watch the film online.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Elle (4 Stars)


The worst possible crime that can be committed against a woman.

Murder is less harmful. If a woman is killed her suffering is over. If she's raped she suffers psychological damage for the rest of her life.

Additional harm comes from others, mostly from other men, whether they're the police, friends or casual acquaintances. The questions are always the same. "Was it really rape? Are you sure you didn't want it? Did you provoke the man?"

"Elle" begins with a rape, in the first seconds of the film, immediately after the credits. The rape scene is repeated in later flashbacks, first exactly as it happened, then an idealised version in which the victim imagines what she should have done to fight back. How often do rape victims play back the incident in their head? Every day for the rest of their lives?

The victim is Michèle LeBlanc, a 49-year-old businesswoman, rich, independent and self-confident. How could this happen to someone like her?

The truth is that it can happen to any woman.

After the attack, which takes place in her own home, Michèle acts as if nothing has happened. She takes a bath. She sweeps up the broken crockery in her living room. She doesn't report the incident to the police. She doesn't even tell her friends about it until a few days later. The only action that she takes which is directly connected to the rape is to visit a doctor to be checked for sexually transmitted diseases.

If Michèle wants to forget the rape, she can't. Over the next few weeks the rapist sends her messages, taunting her, suggesting he will do it again. She has to take steps to protect herself. Pepper spray, a gun and an axe. Yes, an axe. It's only a little axe, but big enough to make sure her assailant never rapes any woman again.

By this point in the film it seems like we can expect a typical rape'n'revenge thriller like "I spit on your grave", but the film heads in a different direction. The film slowly, painstakingly shows us every facet of Michèle's life.

Michèle is the owner of a software company that makes violent adventure games for Playstation 4. Her business partner is her best friend Anna, who she met in hospital when both women had a baby on the same day. Michèle is having an affair with Anna's husband.

Michèle's ex-husband is dating a young woman, a university student.

Michèle's mother is dating a man young enough to be her grandson.

Michèle's son is engaged to a woman who's unfaithful to him. He refuses to believe that her baby isn't his, even though the skin colour should have given it away.

Michèle's father is in prison after being convicted of killing 27 people when she was 10. He's one of France's best known serial killers. At the time of the murders Michèle was accused of aiding her father, but she was too young to be held responsible.

Who is the rapist? Why is he taunting her? The mystery slowly unravels before our eyes.

This is the director Paul Verhoeven's first film for 10 years, and his first ever film made in French. For the last 30 years he's been making big budget films for international audiences. films like "Basic Instinct", "Robocop", "Hollow Man" and "Starship Troopers". "Elle" is a return to his roots as an independent film maker. Even the simple, unadorned opening credits give the film an indy feel, and this atmosphere is strengthened by the sparse use of background music. The film reminds me, stylistically, of "The Fourth Man", which he made in 1983.

This is an excellent film, not easy to classify, but spellbinding from beginning to end. It's a film I need to see again.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Hot Bot (2 Stars)

I've been watching too many bad films lately. I need to find something better to watch. The short synopsis that I read made it sound good, but I was disappointed with the film from the first 10 minutes onwards.

A lot of films that I find disappointing have good special effects and maybe even good actors, but they're let down by the story. In the case of "Hot Bot" it's different. The story itself is an excellent idea which could have been the foundation of a world-wide blockbuster, but the acting and the film production let the film down.

It's a very topical story. A company called Hot Bot Technologies has invented an ultra-realistic sex doll. As well as feeling real to the touch, it walks and talks like a woman. However, the bot's greatest advantage is its artificial intelligence (AI) and learning capabilities. When it's delivered it has basic functions of offering sex to its owner. As time goes by it learns from speaking and interacting with the owner. It, or rather she, learns what the owner wants and becomes the perfect companion, not just sexually, but also a good conversation partner.

I like the sound of that. But let's carry on.

An American senator buys one of the early prototypes, Bardot 2.7. The price tag is $500,000. Slightly out of my price range, I'm afraid. The road is bumpy, and Bardot is accidentally turned on (pun intended) in the delivery van. She seduces the two drivers, then when they're unconscious and exhausted she runs to find another man. She's hit by a car driven by two teenage boys, Linus and Leonard. They think she's dead, so they pick her body up and take her home. Why don't they call the police? Leonard gives the answer: "We can do things with her that we'll never be able to do with a girl when she's alive". The boys are obviously still virgins, and judging by their looks and attitudes they'll remain virgins for a long time.

Bardot wakes up, but she's still behaving erratically, so the boys realise that she's not a real person. They take her to a sex shop to ask for advice. The owner recognises what she is, probably from reading trade magazines, and he repairs her. Linus wants to have sex with her, but it's too late. The next day he leaves her at home while he goes to school. But then disaster strikes.

Linus comes from a very religious Christian family. I don't see much physical resemblance between him and his Dad, but that's just one of the film's loose ends. While Linus is at school his younger sister Shaqobi discovers Bardot and starts talking to her. She gives her a Bible and asks her to accept Jesus into her life. When Linus gets home Bardot has changed. She says that she refuses to have sex before marriage.

Then there's the added problem that the Senator has sent his men to find the bot. That's hardly surprising, since he's paid half a million dollars for her.

If you think my description makes it sound like a great film, that's my point. It's a great story, but everything else about the film is poor. In the hands of a better director, someone like Fred Olen Ray, the film would have been a masterpiece, and Fred would probably have completed it with half the budget. He's an expert at making high quality films with a small budget.

If you're interested in films about sex dolls that come to life, check out "Air Doll" instead. That's a much better made film. I still wish that "Hot Bot" could be remade more competently.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Toni Erdmann (4 Stars)

Before I watched this film today I knew very little about it. I hadn't watched the trailer, but I'd seen film posters that told me it was a comedy. I knew it's supposed to be good. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Most remarkably, it's still being shown every day at one of Stuttgart's city centre cinemas, eight months after its release. How often does that happen? However many screens a cinema has, the cinema boss would only do that if there are enough people watching it. I wonder, is it still attracting new customers, or is it the same people watching it over and over again?

After the first 15 minutes I noticed something. The film wasn't funny. I don't mean that as criticism. I mean that the film posters wrongly portrayed the film. It wasn't a comedy at all. It's a touching, sentimental story about the reconciliation between a father and daughter.

Winfried Conradi is a recently retired school teacher in Aachen. He lives alone with his dog, Willi. We aren't told where his wife is, whether he's widowed or divorced. That's not relevant. His daughter Ines works for a consulting company. They're the absolute opposite of one another. Ines is a highly motivated career woman, always well groomed and serious. Winfried walks around looking scruffy, he's always joking, and most annoyingly for Ines he carries a pair of large false teeth in his shirt pocket that he inserts to make himself look hideous.

The two rarely see one another. Ines has been living in Bucharest for a year to arrange a business deal between a Romanian oil company and a German energy company. It's a deal worth millions, and if successful it will make her career sky rocket. When Willi unexpectedly dies, Winfried decides to go to Bucharest unannounced to get involved with his daughter's life. This is highly embarrassing for her. The first time he approaches her she's with business clients, so she pretends not to know him. Later on she invites him to a business party, but he behaves badly, so she persuades him to go back home to Germany

Except he doesn't go home. The next day he returns wearing an unkempt wig, false teeth and a badly fitting suit and tie, introducing himself as Toni Erdmann, the German ambassador to Romania. Ines recognises him, of course, but she goes along with the pretence. Her friends find him eccentric but interesting. He gatecrashes business events, where he's also accepted. Ines begins to see her father through the eyes of others and realises he's not the silly old man that she's already considered him to be.

I can relate to this film on a personal level. Not all of the details are the same, but it's a close enough match. I'm not working at the moment. I used to be a high level manager and dressed appropriately smartly, but today I prefer to wear jeans and a t-shirt. My daughter Fiona has a serious office job. She has a stiff, uneasy way of talking to people with whom she's not close friends, whereas I'm bubbly and sociable. Fiona doesn't like me to meet her friends and acquaintances, because I embarrass her. What embarrasses her most is that her friends always like me, which she doesn't understand.

I enjoyed "Toni Erdmann" as a film. It's a powerful piece of drama with first rate actors, especially Peter Simonischek in the title role and Ingrid Bisu as Ines' assistant Anca.

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Sunday, 12 March 2017

General: A word to my German readers

Over the last six months I've noticed an increase in the number of blog readers from Germany. Currently almost 10% of my readers are in Germany, twice as many as a year ago. This is probably due to me living in Germany and recommending my blog to friends and people I meet. I realise that for many of my readers it's easier to read than to write English. For this reason, if any of you want to write comments in German it's fine with me. I'll reply to your comments in German, even though I intend to carry on writing my articles in English.

In case you're wondering, these are the countries with the most readers, at present. The numbers vary from month to month, but the USA, Russia, the UK and Germany are always in the top five places.

USA 49.2%
Germany 9.8%
UK 6.1%
Russia 5.9%
France 4.8%
Ukraine 4.6%
Pakistan 3.3%
India 1.2%
Canada 1.1%
Israel 0.7%

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Kung Fu Killer (5 Stars)

I watch a lot of films. You all know that. Some people have claimed that I watch a lot of junk. That's not true. I only watch films that I expect to be good. I'm not a professional film critic who sits in an office and watches everything his boss tells him to watch. I'm a film fan, and I watch films for enjoyment. I want all the films I watch to deserve a four star rating. Anything that gets less than four is a disappointment, and anything that gets less than three is a big disappointment.

The last few days I've been watching disappointing films, and the worst of all was "Horrible Bosses 2" yesterday evening. I already felt like turning it off 15 minutes into the film, but I thought I'd give it a chance. By the time I reached the end I knew I'd made the wrong choice. After watching a film that bad I feel drained, and I need to watch a great film to restore myself. I could have done it the easy way by pulling one of my favourite films off the shelf, but I felt in the mood to watch something new. That's a risk, so I spent almost an hour scrolling through films on Netflix. Finally I spotted two films starring Donnie Yen, "Dragon Tiger Gate" and "Kung Fu Killer". Either of them would have been a safe choice. Of the eight Donnie Yen films I've watched so far I've given six of them five stars, one four and a half stars and one four stars. After reading the Netflix one-sentence summaries I decided to watch "Kung Fu Killer" first, despite its silly title.

The film started off as very good and got even better as it continued. It could be called a martial arts serial killer film. A man is challenging martial arts champions to fights, battling each one in his own fighting style, but not as friendly matches; he fights to the death. As he repeatedly says to his opponents, "Martial arts isn't for playing, it's for killing". The only person who knows who the killer is is Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen), a disgraced police martial arts trainer who has been imprisoned for accidentally killing an opponent in a match. He persuades the police to release him temporarily so that he can pursure the killer. He knows who the intended victims are before they're killed, but even this knowledge doesn't protect them.

The fight scenes are spectacular, and they get better as the film continues, when Donnie himself gets involved. The final battle is breathtaking, taking place in the middle of a busy road, dodging traffic as they fight to the death.

I feel like binging on TV series for a few days, so I'll probably be watching less films than usual this week. I still haven't watched the third season of "Arrow". That needs to be put right.

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Friday, 10 March 2017

Horrible Bosses 2 (1 Star)

The first film was mildly amusing. "Horrible Bosses 2" has almost nothing in its favour. The only scene I enjoyed was seeing Shelby Chesnes jogging on the bridge, which lasted less than ten seconds. If the film had been 90 minutes of her jogging and working out I could have given the film a much better rating.

The film's title is false advertising. Nick, Kurt and Dale are no longer workers suffering under bad bosses. Between them they've invented a new shower head -- huh? -- and they want to make a fortune marketing it. An entrepreneur, played by Christoph Waltz, offers to invest in their startup company, but he screws them over and leaves them bankrupt. What do they expect? Christoph Waltz is always the smooth talking bad guy. To get revenge, and more importantly to get their money back, they kidnap his son and hold him for ransom.

The whole film turns into an unfunny comedy caper about a trio of incompetent criminals attempting to do something that is way over their heads. Jennifer Aniston returns from the first film, but as a seductress she isn't sexy, she just looks stupid.

I feel like I've just wasted 90 minutes of my life. Apart from Shelby Chesnes jogging, of course. I wonder if she's done any fitness videos.

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The Ridiculous 6 (3 Stars)

In the mid 19th Century a white boy was found by the Apaches after the murder of his mother. He was given the name White Knife and brought up as the son of the chief. 25 years later he's shortly before his marriage to Smoking Fox, when his real father, Frank Stockburn, finds him and tells him his name is Tommy. Frank has been an outlaw all his life, but now he only has a few months to live, and he wants to make amends by giving Tommy the $50,000 he stole in his career. He tells Tommy where the money is buried, but the next morning his old gang members arrive and want the money. He gives them a false location, and they take Frank with him in case he's lying.

Tommy wants to dig up the money and give it to the gang to save his father's life, but he can't find it. The only way he can raise so much money at short notice is by robbery, but the Indian chief has taught him to be an honourable man. However, he tells Tommy that it's permissible to steal money from bad people, so Tommy sets out in pursuit of the gang, robbing on the way, but only taking money from other bandits or from banks in towns that don't have a church.

On his travels he discovers that his father used to be a lady's man. He finds five boys who were illegitimately conceived by women his father had used on his travels. These five boys join up with Tommy on the quest to rescue their father.

The film see-saws between brilliant hilarity and stupidly tasteless scenes. The funniest scene is a gunman being beheaded but continuing to shoot. The most disgusting scene is a donkey with diarrhoea. The film profits from majestically filmed scenery, but the story itself is dull, and I found the use of dim-witted characters in the lead roles annoying. Two of my favourite actors, Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi, appear in supporting roles, but they're not enough to win the film a higher rating.

Adam Sandler plays the lead role of Tommy Stockburn aka White Knife. His beautiful wife Jackie Sandler plays an Indian squaw called Never Wears Bra. To be fair, no Indians ever wore bras, but in Jackie's case it's obvious. Bras weren't invented until 1889, so no white women wore bras either.

"The Ridiculous 6" is a Netflix original film. It isn't available on disc, it's exclusive to Netflix. Now that Netflix finally streams films in full HD resolution with Google Chrome it's a more attractive web site.