The Huntsman: Winter’s War

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016) by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

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Well, here we are again and you may wonder why. Why, after hating Snow White and the Huntsman so much, would I watch it’s prequelly sequel? It just shows that I really want to like this franchise. I have failed once more, or maybe the movie makers have once again failed me.

Here’s what happens:

thehuntsmanandtheicequeen1The Evil Queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), has a sister: Freya (Emily Blunt). Freya resists her magical powers and falls for a young man who is already betrothed to another woman, but he still gets Freya pregnant and later kills the child, seemingly because it interferes with his marriage plans. Freya, of course, kills him, freezing him to death with a single scream over her dead daughter.

In order to not live under her sister’s thumb, she goes north, builds an ice fortress and an army from the young people of the countries surrounding her own – she kidnaps them, kills their parents. She explains to them that love is non-existent and that they’re far better off with her. She’s freed them from the illusion of love and they’re trained to be her army of huntsmen.

One of them is Eric (Chris Hemsworth) whom we have met in the first film, another is Sara (Jessica Chastain). They fall in love and are then seperated by the ice queen, Eric thinking Sara dead while she thinks he abandoned her. Seven years later, after the Snow White-thing happened, they meet again to secure Ravenna’s mirror.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Well, the trailer looked great that’s why I watched this one. Another great trailer, another disappointing movie. Another failed attempt at feminism, too, though it’s not the main focus of this movie.

My problems with it stem less from the story and once again more from the underlying thehuntsmanandtheicequeen5messages. While the makers of The Huntsman seem to have taken advice from the makers of the show Once Upon a Time and screwed continuity, it’s not the worst they did. But let me tell you in detail.

For me, it all started with the question: so, Freya is Ravenna’s sister, where did she come from? It could be explained away, of course. She’s younger, she wasn’t kidnapped with Ravenna and her creepy brother, they reunited later, whatever. But then, they never even mentioned the creepy brother in this one, even though he could have been part of the narrative in the past. But they just dropped him. Okay.

But what about the fact that we last saw Eric eye-shagging Snow White across the throne room, and suddenly he finds out his wife isn’t dead? Shouldn’t that be awkward? Obviously not, because Snow White and the Huntsman were, it seems, never an item. He works for her, as a good huntsman would, and later swears to his wife that he was always true to her. Yeah, well… okaaay. So, continuity was thrown out the castle window, that’s mildly annoying, but whatever.

thehuntsmanandtheicequeen4This franchise boasts with its feminism. Look, it says, all the strong women we have, and women in power positions, too. And strong fighters. Seeing Jessica Chastain whup some serious Hemsworth-ass you would agree, but then, am I the only one thinking it kinda weird that the male population of the conquered countries outweighs the female population by about 6 to 1? Which means, far more male Huntsmen than female. And there goes your feminism. They try to present it in front of the camera, but then fail to employ just as many female extras as male. Why? Probably so that the male audience doesn’t feel uncomfortable by all those feisty women fighters. FAIL!

You probably think: oh, stop whining. Both evil queens are female! Yes, they are. They’re also evil and must be overcome by the good male. I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate the effort they made of having three male heroes (Eric and his two dwarf companions) match with three female heroes (Sara and two randomly encountered female dwarfs). I do, but then, matching them is what they do, because every female becomes an instant love interest for the males. And here’s a theme that really rubbed me the wrong way: heteronormativity.

Having Freya fall for this young princely guy in the beginning is to be expected, it’s part of the plot. Having her become pregnant, that already seems problematic. It’s a Fairy Tale, girls who just give it away won’t be available for Happy Endings; her daughter dies, it was all a plot by her evil sister who feared the beauty her niece would become (they could have come up with a different reason here, but I guess why fix what’s not broken).

Ravenna still doesn’t seem overly interested in the kings she marries and keeps killing them. I appreciate that the movie makers are consistent here and pretty much still portray Ravenna as a lesbian. An evil lesbian, of course. Freya is less easily categorized, though. Of course, having had sex with a man before marriage does make her a sexual deviant of sorts, but the way they stage Sara’s ‘betrayal’ of Eric, it looks a little like Freya took advantage of Sara in more ways than one. It’s free for interpretation, but the looks that pass, the timing of Eric asking if Sara has been truthful… it lends heavily to the idea that Freya and Sara hooked up at some point. But since the whole situation, the Huntsman being Freya’s slaves (whipping scars included), is emphasized, it’s not Sara’s fault.thehuntsmanandtheicequeen2

And here we have another problematic topic: slavery. If we place The Huntsman in its original time and place, we could argue for indented servantry, I guess. But the movie makers push the story here, including black children in the kidnapped mix. Going back to the Brothers Grimm, this would have been fairly unlikely, but American Fairy Tale telling has always taken liberties, so let’s say it’s a liberty they took here. They made one of the kidnapped black kids a recognizable character, Tull (Sope Dirisu), marking him with an ice burn to the face, so he might be recognizable to the white audience (that’s not racist at all!).

You know, at this point, it’s not difficult to see why this movie made me so mad. I was surprised by my reaction, but I do feel it’s justified. The movie tries so hard to make things right, but in execution fails miserably. The main evil character is a lesbian obsessed with her beauty, her sister has sex before marriage and loses her daughter as a price for her indiscretion, the ‘dwarfs’ are being played by tall people, and the black character gets a mark so that we may not confuse him with the two black extras. Oh, and of course, everybody good is also inherently straight, even though one of the male dwarfs shows his affection through verbal abuse – never mind, he’s still a better choice than the supporting female friend!

I mean, seriously? And you thought this was representative, feminist Fairy Tale-ing? Actually, it’s abusive, is the nicest thing I can say about it. And again, the acting of the main players is SO good, the movie LOOKS good. Jessica Chastain can actually pull off a fighter that’s a worthy opponent of Hemsworth… but it’s all wasted on a movie that both demonizes or redicules diversity.

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Mad Max: Fury Road (3D)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) by George Miller

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I had no intention of watching this movie. It interested me about as much as watching snails mate before someone dropped the f-word. And by f-word I mean feminist, a feminist Mad Max-movie.

madmax2But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s what it’s about:

Mad Max (Tom Hardy) lives in a post-apocalyptic world and every day’s a struggle. He’s captured and used as blood donor for the cancer-ridden Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a warrior for the great Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). When Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) escapes with his whole harem of breeders (among them Zoe Kravitz), Immortan Joe and his posse take to the Fury Road to get back his property. A mad battle over freedom and hope begins.

And suddenly Mad Max is not the most insane character on this odd-yssey. But I liked it. I know that I have at least watched one of the original Mad Max-movies (the third), I’m not sure about the others. I don’t remember it being so… wild, but then I only remember Tina Turner being in it, so.

I thought this was going to be just another one of those dick flicks, male heroism-laden, totally FURY ROADboring and interchangeable movies that we all have watched a million times. It was not, at least not on all these counts. But we should be real here, it’s not anything great or surprisingly innovative. It’s very good entertainment, you’ll not be bored. You’ll see stuff explode, and car chases, and disgustingly violent things happening, all the things you would expect from a movie like this. There’s some humor randomly added, a little love story that doesn’t take up too much time or space.

Is it a feminist film, though? I would agree with Charlize Theron that it is not, but for different reasons. Post-apocalyptic worlds usually mean that there’s need for offspring. Thus women are being held captive, forced to breed. Oftentimes they’re being raped, or make that all the time since their autonomy over their bodies is taken, period. And this is where Miller starts his tale and tries to right this wrong. This is surprising. The story follows a couple of women who try to escape their circumstances and get unexpected help from a stranger who is on his path to redemption.

madmax3While the focus on the women is surprising, there is no way Miller could make them equal to Max. He needed a female hero as well, and this is Imperator Furiosa. A woman who has gone through the same hardship as the girls she’s trying to save. And she is presented as an equal to Max. While his (mental) disability isn’t visible, hers is: she’s missing part of her left arm. But she’s a fighter and a no-nonsense hero. She does what is necessary to get the women to where she came from, to where she was taken from. As this is post-apocalyptic, this home away from male domination isn’t all it was supposed to be.

Furiosa is equal to Max, in this you could say it’s actually feminist. If you look at any other characters, though, you see that it does not extend beyond the heroes. The matriarchal clan Furiosa came from is down to a handful of women who resort to killing men because they can’t trust them. The women at the citadel are used as breeders or as providers of milk and care takers. And if you look at mere numbers, well, men everywhere, fighting, dying, rocking FURY ROADout to the sound of their own deaths. Male dominance is very much alive.

Still, some men complain over the female-centric plot, over the fact that Max is not the single hero. Check you priviledge, guys. If you don’t like it, watch one of the gazillion films that’s been made about your entitlement and shut the fuck up.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) by Tommy Wirkola

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I guess I’m still not done with my obsession with fairy tales and folklore. It so happens that this is part of my own folklore and I guess I never appreciated the Brothers Grimm as part of German culture as I do these days. Sure, I was always aware of them – as their fairy tales accompanied my whole childhood, more so than Hans Christian Anderson’s – but never quite as appreciative as I am now. Maybe it took for me to see that Hollywood knows and likes them, too, maybe I am just now starting to look through these tales and see how really disturbing and influential they are.

hansel&gretel3Hansel & Gretel surely is one of the best known fairy tales, at least, for me it is. The gingerbread house, the bond between sibling, the evil witch that is being tricked by two children. The movie shows this story but it focuses more on the aftermath of two children killing a witch.

Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are abandoned by their father in the dark forest. After some time wandering they find a gingerbread house and start eating away at it. The witch living there lures them inside, incarcerates them and is ultimately killed before she can eat them. The siblings set out on a mission to free other children being held captive by witches and kill the evil hags. They build a reputation until – years later – they come to a town that has several children missing and no idea how to deal with this. Hansel and Gretel help out – for a price – but encounter their strongest opponent (Famke Janssen) yet, one that also links back to their past.

Sometimes you start watching a movie and you realize in the first few minutes hansel&gretel6that the plot is going to suck – big time. Such a movie is Hansel & Gretel. However, if you realize this early on you’re not building any expectations and that’s actually good because then you can enjoy it as a dense action flick with a lot of 3D-effects thrown in for good measure. Well, they’re not actually measured, they’re rather spread liberally.

If nothing else this movie is nice to look at. We have two good-looking main characters, we have the usual banter with people of lesser charm and ability, and then there’s Famke Janssen as the evil witch and she is sooo good at it. Make no mistake: the movie is bad. It’s shallow, it’s predictable, it’s superficial hansel&gretel4entertainment. But at least, it does not bore us with any deep contemplation, and it doesn’t annoy us with the assumption that Gretel is any less of a hero than her brother is. Gemma Arterton is not only a pretty sidekick to her ass-kicking brother, she kicks ass herself. And this is actually so rare it’s delightful. And on top of that, she looks good in leather. Jeremy Renner didn’t impress me half as much, though. I usually like him but he seems to play a lot of the same roles lately – Bourne, Hawkeye, Hansel: tough as nails action heroes that blow up shit but have nothing new to tell us.

Neither does this movie tell us anything new about old tales. But if you’re looking for an action flick where you can just see some disgusting, some ass-kicking, some sibling-bonding – you’re welcome to enjoy Hansel & Gretel.

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Les Misérables

Les Misérables (2012) by Tom Hooper

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Finally, Les Mis opened in Germany! Finally, I watched it!

You might think that this has been a livelong dream of mine, that I could think of nothing else while waiting for it to happen, that I was thrilled by the choices of actors – or devastated. But you would be wrong. I knew very little of Les Misßerables before, and I don’t feel that I know a lot more now. Sure, the plot is fairly clear now, some quotes that I may have heard before make sense – but I have never read the novel by Victor Hugo, I haven’t seen a version of the musical before now.

lesmis4And still, when people started talking about it on the blogosphere, I became intrigued and I wanted to see it – even more so when I heard that Helena Bonham Carter would be in it, singing once again as she had already done on Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Anne Hathaway? Can she sing? Russell Crowe? Can HE sing? Hugh Jackman? Awesome, he can sing! The list of cast just got better and better and then I waited, patiently. Until yesterday:

The year is 1815, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has spent 19 years in prison, five for stealing a loaf of bread, 14 more because he tried to escape. Now he’s on parole and he’s given the chance to better himself. But he can’t do that while still wearing the stigma of a con – so, he makes his former self disappear and builds a new identity. One, that becomes mayor of some city and a respected businessman. At his factory works a young woman by the name of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who is dismissed by Valjean’s foreman after finding out that she has an illegitimate child.

Fantine takes to the street while Valjean has to face his past in the figure of lesmis2Javert (Russell Crowe) who was a guard at prison and recognizes the man. Valjean finds Fantine and takes her to the hospital where she dies after Valjean promises her to find her daughter, Cosette, and care for her. He does but has to flee with the small girl (Isabelle Allen) because Javert is after him again. Nine years later in Paris, Valjean and Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) live in hiding. Cosette falls in love with a young revolutionist, Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Javert once again enters their lives. Trying to escape they are caught up in the machinisms of a revolution and everybody has choices to make, debts to pay.

The story isn’t the greatest part of it, and I’m not even sure if it’s Hugo’s doing or simply the script of even the musical version, but there are certainly a few questions that are left unanswered, a little too many coincidences happening. But these probably shouldn’t even be mentioned in the light of a fantastic cast lesmis3giving a breathtaking performance. Yes, they can all sing and they do. And while they’re all really wonderful, it is Anne Hathaway who blows everyone else out of the water. Oscar-worthy performance? Abso-fucking-lutely (pardon my French, and the pun)! There are no words to discribe her intensity. She makes the audience feel lost with her, makes everyone want to reach out and protect her. She is the face that has been ruined, not by her own doing but by others judging her. She should have lived where others died but she doesn’t. She dies and the audience cries for her.

Luckily, they bring Anne Hathaway back for the grand finale because by then you have missed her – not because it had all turned boring and lame by now but simply because she was THAT good.

Whoelse was good? Well, you guessed it: Helena Bonham Carter. It doesn’t really matter what she does, she does it all fabulously. And the weight of not letting the whole show drudge into misery and sorrow lay heavy on her and Sacha Baron Cohen’s shoulders and they pulled it off and making it look effortlessly.

I’m mentioning these two actresses but I should mention everyone involved. lesmis9The cast was fabulous. I think I was most surprised by the role of Javert. It would have been easy to have him being the villain, somebody who doesn’t care. But Javert does care. He really believes that Valjean belongs in prison, that he’s a dangerous man. He also believes in the system, in the law, and that’s exactly why he must fail in the end – because the system fails him. He is confronted with the question of right and wrong and must admit to himself that he has been wrong all along, because he has put himself on the wrong side. I feel, that his is really the most complex of roles, more so than Valjean’s, because Valjean has the opportunity to redeem himself – Javert doesn’t. And Crowe is really great at protraying this.

There’s another interpretation that lends itself to these two characters, of course. It feels a little like a love story between the two men. None of them seems to have any other romantic linkages but one is always following the other, watching for him. Yes, there’s antagonism but there’s also honor and a sense of one coin with two sides. One is Valjean, the other Javert (their names are eerily similar with the prominant Vj/Jv sounds in them). It’s really a kind of symbioses that binds them, they cannot let go, they cannot carry on.

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There is so much in the story, there’s so much in the songs, there are emotions and thoughts. I will watch it again and listen to the soundtrack and maybe even read the novel – hopefully it will all make sense at some point, or at least the things that I found a little lacking in the plot. It was the only thing that lacked anything really, as this was a brilliant movie. Now go see, if you haven’t already.

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The Thing About Batman…

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) by Christopher Nolan

So, I watched The Dark Knight Rises on Saturday. It’s actually a little weird to say that because after the last Batman-movie I promised myself to never watch another one of those. Why?

The thing about Batman is… that I really don’t like him. As a character. Bruce Wayne is altogether too serious and too snobby to be really likable. I like to compare him with Tony Stark because they are both insanely rich and orphans but Stark is sarcastic, has a wicked sense of humour, while Batman takes everything to heart, is obsessed with saving people. It seems he has to ultimately fail because he will never be able to save his parents. Of course, this comes from someone who is no expert on comic books at all.

Let’s talk a little about the movie then. It was long, and it was also good. What I take from the franchise under Christopher Nolan’s supervision is that everybody is just a person. Nobody has superpowers, some are freakishly disfigured but by some miracle still alive – and are incredibly angry. People are hurting. Our hero is hurting, too, but he still finds it in him to want to make the life of others better.

Gotham seems to be a pit really… this city seems way beyond saving.  And maybe this is another thing about the whole Batman-franchise that I do not like: the dreariness, the bleakness, the darkness. Gotham City is depressing, like some 1930s film noir New York or Chicago, it has too many shadows and in every single one of them lurks an even darker shadow that sometimes wants your money, sometimes your life.

But then there are also things I like about Batman: Everybody is wonderfully three-dimensional. The character development within the franchise is great. The villains are evil because they actually do evil – not like some wannabes who never get their act on (right, Loki?). And then there are some who are not even evil but merely… criminals. Like Catwoman/Selina Kyle in this new installment. And let me tell you – she is glorious. But then she always was. Think Eartha Kitt, think Michelle Pfeiffer, okay, don’t think Halle Berry… Anne Hathaway owns the catsuit and she looks mighty fine in it. She was the reason I watched the movie and I am not even a little disappointed – she can act and she does and she looks good doing it. The one regret I have about her – she and Bruce/Christian Bale had zero chemistry… it happens and maybe it shouldn’t be forced…

Marion Cotillard’s role as Miranda certainly was surprising but it was also very well acted. At first I thought she was wasted as love interest but I had another thing coming and it was gooooood. I guess it is not really surprising that I found the women of the movie more compelling than the males. Though I must say: Blake (or Robin)… Joseph Gordon-Levitt has becomes such a capable actor. And why not continue with only him and have a Robin-movie. This is actually something I would like to watch – despite my misgivings about Gotham City. And I guess I don’t have to mention the awesomeness that were both Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, right? I mean with those two it’s a given.

So, yeah, it was a good movie. It sure had its lengths but I liked the various topics within the movie about whether the Dent-Act is still valuable even if Dent was not the hero they made him into. And also the socialist component, the question if people like Wayne (rich people) have any purpose…

And then there was this and it made a good movie into a great one:

Marvel’s The Avengers

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) by Joss Whedon

It’s funny but I don’t know why I watched this. I didn’t want to, I actually wasn’t the least bit tempted after I saw the trailer. And then I stood infront of the movie theater yesterday and I could have watched Spiderman or W./E. but instead I watched The Avengers. I am still a little astounded by this turn of events… but, well, so I watched it.

I guess I had forgotten that it was directed and written by Joss Whedon but when I saw that it had been done by Whedon I was a little bit peeved. I mean, Whedon gave us one of the best female action tv heroes of the nineties, then he tried to give us fabulous shows like Firefly and Dollhouse and for no apparent reason failed… they were very good shows. And now he gives us The Avengers and my surprise is that it is mostly a make-no-prisoners-dick-flick. Sure, he tried to integrate The Female into this film but with all the phallic imagery (the same as when I wrote about Thor) and male heroes and male villains it kinda got… c**k-blocked.

What we saw of female hero-ship was mostly Scarlett Johansson looking verrry goood (men got over-the-shoulder-shots, Scarlett got full-ass-shots) in catsuit. The same could be said about what little we saw of Gwyneth Paltrow (those cut-offs, dayam!). There was only one female character who seemed almost too much of a character and that was Agent Hill (Colbie Smulders). And this is probably the difference between Whedon and any other director – he actually thinks female characters are important. Other than that, well, Captain America (Chris Evans) seems a little creepy, I never liked Mark Ruffalo, though his Banner was okay, I guees. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still the coolest superhero Marvel has (I love Stark, and I love Downey playing him), and the Loki-guy (Tom Hiddleston) is so hilarious… he’s such a bad villain, and I mean bad not in evil but just plain bad, almost trashy, because he so isn’t evil enough but still he gets the upper hand sometimes – and he’s so pretty.

Mainly this movie is a pissing contest – hell, that lengthy fight between Iron Man and Thor (Chris Hemsworth)! See me still rolling my eyes as I think about it. When it was over, I actually asked the characters to rezip their pants, because really… really…

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t detest it, it was entertainment. Some things were fun, others were totally geeky. But at the end of the day, this is not the kind of movie I want to watch anymore. And not because I think myself too old or too mature (or whatever) to geek out over an action movie – I am not above geekdom, at all – I am just not willing to pay 13 Euros to watch men being heroes and women being eyecandy. Given, the women in this film weren’t just eyecandy but they weren’t quite the heroes the men were… or maybe I just don’t get the whole world domination/war theme that sells us that there actually are heroes in something as pointless as war.

I know, I always promise myself: no more dick flicks, but then I end up seeing some anyways… I don’t know. I should have watched Madonna’s W./E...

Anonymous

Anonymous (2011) by Roland Emmerich

Shakespeare and I have a history (and yes, this is going to be a longer post, so go make some tea and get comfy). I was 13 when I had the splendid idea that I should read Shakespeare (in the German translation), and I chose Macbeth (and yes, it was a mistake). I read three pages and threw it into a corner where it lay for about three years (no, I did not allow anybody to pick it up, I wanted it to feel as shamed and embarrassed as I did when I didn’t understand it).

So, three years passed, and I watched Much Ado About Nothing, and I suddenly understood Shakespeare (or Branagh’s version of it). And I tried to read Macbeth again and gave up after two pages. I bought Much Ado and I understood that – so, the moral of this is probably that not every Shakespeare-play is for me. (Meanwhile I had to read Macbeth, and though I do understand it now – it is actually easier to understand in English than in its German translation – it is still no favorite of mine.)

Of course, I was thrilled when I read that there was to be a movie about the identity of the world’s greatest poet. I love most of his work, I have read different accounts on who he was and I am fascinated with his story. So, here’s the trailer:

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I personally see Shakespeare as more of an institution than a man. Surely, there was a man named William Shakespeare working as an actor in London at the time but it is fairly doubtful that he was THE William Shakespeare who wrote those plays. Even if he did, this script would have gone through many hands afterwards, would have been revised by other writers during production. But, of course, the idea of some nobleman (or -woman?) having written these plays is more likely since he must have been able to write, known some Greek tragedies, a little bit of the world… Maybe there were even more than one person involved in writing the plays?

This movie by Roland Emerich picks up a common theory among academics: Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans, Jamie Campbell Bower) was Shakespeare. The movie shows him as an unlucky fellow who had to marry a girl he did not love but then falls in love with Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson) and she with him – and then she gets pregnant.

This is also the story of the very influential Cecil family (lead by William Cecil played by David Thewlis) who behind the scenes protected the Queen’s secrets and kept her save from her enemies.

There is also the son of Oxford and Elizabeth – it is actually believed that Elizabeth had several children from a multitude of lovers – who is not even considered for the throne because he, of course, did not know he was the queen’s son. The story is told on several time lines. We see Oxford as a man in his forties, who is obsessed with writing plays and has them played out under a different name – it is more of a coincidence that it is Shakespeare – and not Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto) – who claims to have written the plays. Then there is the younger Oxford who lives with the family of Cecil and marries their daughter. He wants to make a name for himself but William Cecil always interferes and spends a good part of his fortune.

It is also the story of Ben Johnson who wants to become a great playwrite himself (and he certainly was that) but today he is most famous for the inscription on the First Folio.

The movie tells a lot of stories, it is about a man who has to write but is not supposed to write, a man who cannot write and is supposed to be the best playwrite of his time, a man who did write but was never the best of his profession, and a woman who was a queen and a lover but was never allowed to be a mother.

The cast is great and, I must say, I have seen so many Elizabeth I but Vanessa Redgrave… holy mess! She is fantastic. The idea to cast her daughter Joely Richardson as her younger self is brilliant, of course. The movie is great and far more interesting than I make it out, believe me. It has fighting, and flight, and things explode and burn (this is Roland Emmerich, after all). People die. I was once again captivated by the performance of Jamie Campbell Bower who I though great in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and who made for a really good young Oxford, arrogant, tortured, lost.

The introduction of the movie certainly is referential to Branagh’s Henry V, as it begins with Derek Jacobi as prologue. It is actually a little disconcerting seeing this film that has been made by Emmerich and Thor which has been done by Branagh. One might rather think that the two films had been done by the other… Anyways, it is – as always – a pleasure to see Shakespeare and it is certainly interesting to know and understand some of the debate that the poet himself inspired. Who was Shakespeare? I don’t know and it is not crucial for me to know but this movie showed an interesting theory, so I felt thoroughly entertained.

Drive

Drive (2011) by Nicolas Winding Refn

I sometimes wonder if I know anything about movies at all. I know I am different in my observations of movies a lot of time, so maybe writing reviews is not really something I should do because 89% of you people out there who read this will probably be of a different opinion about a movie… it’s possible. Well, I like doing this, I like putting my opinion out there maybe especially because it is different from so many others. And having now looked up “Drive” on imdb.com and noticing the splendor of the “Best Director (Cannes)” emblem on the poster, I know that many of you will definately not agree with me. But that’s alright.

So, I went to another sneak preview last week and they showed “Drive.” The movie is about a stuntdriver/mechanic  (Ryan Goling) who at night earns his money as get-away driver. He falls for his beautiful neighbor but unfortunately she has a husband (and a son which is not really a problem, just mentioning it so you know) who is just coming out of jail as our hero tries to get cozy with the missus. Because he is a good guy and tries to be helpful he ends up getting into a lot of trouble when the husband is blackmailed into another heist.

Things get ugly and our hero barely survives – end of story. Well, I wish it would have lasted only the two minutes it took me to retell it… because then I would not have sat through those 100 minutes bored out of my senses. As you should know about me by now, I am generally a little impatient with stories about male heroes. It’s nothing personal, there are just so many of them out there and they are all so similar and taking themselves for so important – well, not to me. But judging by the reactions of the rest of the audience, I wasn’t the only one who was bored.

The title of the movie sure does indicate a fast movie – cars chasing around the city and all that stuff that men love so much, well, there was a little of that but mostly it was about the driver (he doesn’t have a name, I looked it up) looking longingly at Carey Mulligan’s character and trying to keep up with her questions. And I could never tell if Gosling was either as bored as I was or trying to portrait a guy who has fallen on his head too much. That was my impression – although the poster tells me that “Some heroes are real” – which I guess should indicate that this is supposed to be a portrait of a real hero… Joe Average kinda-guy that saves the girl he cannot have but still loves.

Well, needless to say, he wasn’t that to me. And he wasn’t that to a lot of other people in the audience. Maybe this is too American a subject for us to relate – although there rarely is one too American for Germans, we are that Americanized – but maybe the movie is just plain bad, idiotic, boooooring (there ought to be more “o”s in there but I don’t want to bore you by putting all of them that I feel adequate in here), annoying, and stupid. That’s what it felt like for me. Half an hour in I wished I could fall asleep during movies but unfortunately I cannot.

Make no mistake, this is the worst movie I ever watched at the movies. Van Helsing has filled that spot until last week, Van Helsing! It is just a shame about the actors. I mean, how can you not love Carey Mulligan? The cast (I would say except Ryan Gosling) was actually quite good… but WTF?!

Maybe Albert Brooks made a meta-comment when he said that the films his character used to make were considered European… I don’t like European films much, they are too art-sy for me. And maybe this movie is just too sophisticated for me to understand, everything’s possible. But honestly, I don’t think so.

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) by Jon Favreau

Well, if you know me a little you might guess why I watched this movie. Right, I watched it for Olivia Wilde. Also, because I think it is a great idea. Some people might think that this is a genre clash that cannot go well but think about this: why should our time (a post E.T.-time, if you want) be the only time that aliens visited. So, maybe there have been ufo sightings back in the days – people just may not have thought they were aliens… I don’t know what they thought they were seeing, maybe they thought they were just incredibly drunk, who knows… where was I, yeah, I liked the idea from that standpoint.

And the movie delivered on it: we had cowboys and we had aliens and they fought each other in an epic battle. I love westerns. I like the premise of good versus evil when you can tell the evil just by the clothes it wears. But this is another ball game and the hero may not have been the best choice of hero but then… in a hard world a good hero is hard to find. And I really like Daniel Craig… so, yeah, he is always a kind of unlikely hero. And he surely can pull off that chaps-look.

The problem with a genre that is so overdone as westerns, is the many stereotypes it serves. I don’t know what was with the Natives/First Nation aka Indians but they have been portrayed less stereotypical warpainty and battlecryey… this was a little disappointing but probably inevitable with this being made from a comic/graphic novel/or whatever the pc for this one is. I can look past that and say, yes, it was a good movie. It has its fun parts, it has its horror, yak, ugly parts and it got some strange no-I-don’t-get-it parts, too. So, in all it is watchable.

But this is me talking, so, you already know that there is something else coming. The part where I say: no, sorry, but that was not okay. And most of the time this has to do with the depiction of women in movies. And yes, this part is coming. It is not too bad in this movie. I was just disappointed, is all. If you look at the poster left, there are three heroes on it, the movie only delivered on two, unfortunately. If you live in my head and you see a poster like that, you already make up the story in your head and it does not register in my head why Olivia Wilde should be less of a hero than Daniel Craig or Harrison Ford (I actually thought Ford was miscast, but that’s another story). In my head she is not just Craig’s love interest, she holds her own with a gun. Why couldn’t she? I know what you’re thinking: I am being too critical, too feminist, why don’t I just shut up? I cannot. This annoyed the heck out of me. Because the whole film worked on the premise of what that guy said when the troups started to fight: we already have a kid and a dog, why not take a woman, too?

Y’know, to hell with the machismo of the whole thing. Just once, I would like Hollywood to measure up to my standards. They have done that in the past, there are female action heroes out there (Ripley, Sarah Connor) but it’s been a while since we have seen a female action hero that was a hero not despite being a woman but just because somebody had to do the job and she was there. We are too stuck on gender these days and we shouldn’t be. And Olivia Wilde could pull it off, too…

Okay, I will stop. I know no one’s listening. I liked the film although it was sometimes too heavy on the machism and on stereotypes. But I guess that’s what you get when comic book meets western meets evil aliens… and I will just wait patiently for the next female action hero. She’s due.

Harry Potter 7.2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011) by David Yates

This is where Potter continues – and ends. And it is as many have said: an era ends. We have all grown up or older with him and his friends and it is sad to see them all go. But if you have to go, go in a blast of fire and rubble and don’t look back, I guess.

First of all, the movie was dark. Those who have thought it was darkest last, have come to know an even darker dark. But it was magnificently shot – just think of that early shot of Snape standing in that window, it was fantastic. The dark figure, the grey backdrop… fantastic.

Finally, we got to see all of Snape’s (Alan Rickman) story and it is a bitter one. Having been in love with Harry’s mom, Lilly, from an early age, he had to watch her falling for that no-good Potter guy. Don’t tell me, you did not feel for him there, it was so sad. And, of course, he was an almost good guy in the way he protected Harry and even killed Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). Well, I was one of those who always thought that the headmaster’s faith in him was not misplaced, so there.

And another one got part of the action: Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis). And he is the secret hero of the whole showdown – as he was also in the book. I love the scene where he walks into the middle of the baddies and says: “I am Neville Longbottom.” and everybody laughs but he certainly raises the spirit. Another thing I love with the Harry Potter-franchise is, that I think all actors stuck to it (I think Dumbledore was the only main character who was played by more than one actor – due to Richard Harris’s death). To see those boys and girls grow up. Remember Ginny (Bonnie Wright) from the first movie? I do. And Neville has grown into a man before our eyes – he was always brave but he finally got to be the hero.

While I loved most things about the last installment, there are some things… well, what happened to Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), people? Suddenly, she grows all soft on us and just drools over Ron and tells him how awesome he is? WTF? You know, Hermione is my favorite character (Bellatrix Lestrange is a close second – go figure), and she has always been quite the heroine, someone little girls can look up to. And then she kisses Ron and is turned into his lapdog? Wrong move all together. Because it feels like girls have to be sweet and doleful to get a guy, because Hermione did not get much from Ron when she was always better at everything… it just feels wrong, is all.

I have already mentioned the difficulties I had with taking Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) seriously. That still holds. Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter) was such a great villain, she was so mean, so… evil. And Voldemort never got his s**t together. I mean, he couldn’t even be called evil because he failed at every attempt at it. His minions were always more successful at spreading terror than him. Maybe next time we just need a strong female adversary for our superhero (or preferably superheroine) and not some dude without nose and strange manerisms. Just saying.

All in all, though… it is hard to believe that Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) gone, that Hermione’s gone (and a wife and mother – I did not like the ending in the book or in the movie… it’s too heteronormative, and altogether disturbing…), that Ron’s (Rupert Grint) gone. We’ll miss ’em. We will even miss Draco (Tom Felton) and his weirdly colored hair… another thing I would have liked to see (again in the book and the movie): a coming out of the wizarding world. I mean, there has been much that happened in the muggle world that was related to the war between good and evil wizards and you, Joanne K. Rowling, are telling us that after the final battle we have all gone back to normal? Pity that, ’cause how great would it have been if the Hogwarts Train in the end had left from platform 7, instead of 9 3/4?

Oh, one last word to Maggie Smith: KAZOOM, lady, KAZOOM!