Archive for February, 2013

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25 years ago today, the martial arts cult classic ‘Bloodsport’ was released, introducing Jean-Claude Van Damme on the big screen. I know what your thinking: so what? Why would he want to bring that up? Well now, not only is J.C. a fellow countryman, I also live in his hometown, near Brussels. So no, I can’t just let it pass. 🙂 Besides, some of you might find it hard to admit, but were you not mesmerized, back in the day, when you saw J.C. do his famous split for the first time? Or when he slammed a few teeth out of some bad guy’s jaw with his jump spinning heel-kick? You know you where, at some point in our boyhood, we all wanted to be like Jean-Claude. Luckily, for most of us, it passed. I know J.C. still considers this film his baby, and although he’s getting a part of his hip replaced at a hospital in Belgium this week,  I still bet today’s a pretty a special day for him.

Director: Marc Rothemund

Actors: Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs, Gerald Alexander Held

Actress Julia Jentsch as Sophie Scholl on tria...

Actress Julia Jentsch as Sophie Scholl on trial in Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sophie Scholl was a young, German woman who stood up to the Nazi regime. She joined the Nazi resistance group ‘The White Rose’ but got caught while distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets at the university of Munich in 1943. This German spoken film is a journey through her last six days, from the planning of the pamphlet distribution, to the arrest, the interrogation by the Gestapo, her trial and finally her execution.

While watching, a growing feeling of uneasiness came over me. At first, while being interrogated by the Gestapo, Sophie seems to be able to talk her way out of any involvement. She is about to get released, but at the very last moment gets called back by her interrogator. Things really start going downhill for Sophie from there on. Slowly but surely, you see the horrible reality dawning upon her: she is going to die. She can no longer mislead her interrogator, as evidence builds up against her. Her harsh trial is lead by a judge who obviously has no intention of giving Sophie and her companions any fair chance. But the most atrocious part to me was the medieval fashion the Nazis used to fulfill executions in those days.

This movie is unique in a way, as it is a rendition of the Nazi regime’s brutality and ruthlessness but seen from a different side, the German side. It shows how the Nazi regime wasn’t any more lenient for anyone with ideas that strayed from theirs, even amongst their own.

Director: David Grohl

Stars: Trent Reznor, Tom Petty, Mick Fleetwood, David Grohl, Rick Rubin

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To make music nowadays, all one needs is a laptop and some Pro Tools-like software. Back in the all or nothing-days, you needed a fully equipped music studio, and more importantly, gifted and talented people and musicians. Making music was a complicated work, which not only involved lots of equipment, more than anything it was a process of creation between people, coming together in one place, trying to find that moment of magic and taking it from there.

This is a documentary about one of those places, probably one of the most legendary of them all: Sound City. No one less than uber-Foo Fighter Dave Grohl took it upon himself to bring us the story of this place where more than 100 certified gold and platinum records were recorded. Sound City started in 1969 in Van Nuys, Los Angeles. Its first marking points were the recordings of Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac’s debut albums in the early and mid-seventies. They were soon followed by a flock of seventies rock legends. Sound City wasn’t a shiny, fancy music palace. If anything, it was a dump, with hideous brown carpet on the walls, but also with a very particular recording sound and managed by people who loved what they were doing. During the eighties Sound City had trouble keeping up with the first wave of digitalized music. The overproduced hair-band rock sound was miles away from what Sound City was about. It wasn’t until the recording of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ that the place re-boomed.

Thank you Dave, for letting us mortals have a peak at one of rock music’s most sacred places.

Director: Shane Meadows

Actors: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Vicky McClure

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Set in the grim Thatcher-era of the eighties, the story of young Shaun isn’t a happy one. He lives alone with his mother since his father died during the Falkland war. Shaun has no friends and his mom dresses him in old clothes, for which he gets picked on in school. But all of that ends when he meets Woody and his skinhead friends. They take little Shaun under their wings, put him in a proper skinhead outfit and give his head a thorough shave.

The funny thing about his odd skinhead bunch is that they are a multi-colored mix. Apparently a quite common phenomenon in the English skinhead culture of the eighties. They seem more preoccupied about their surreal wardrobes and pulling  harmless, mischievous pranks on each other than they seem about having any extreme political ideas as you would expect from them. Shaun fits in great and is happier than ever. But things are about to get more serious when an old gang-member returns from prison to join their little group.

This is England is a extraordinary portrayal of a little piece of English history and a touching, sometimes funny story about a lonely boy at the same time. It is imprinted with the raw eighties-English atmosphere, not only through its cinematography and costumes, but also by a great soundtrack. Even though it was his first ever part in a movie, Thomas Turgoose’s portrayal of the cheeky but yet sensitive Shawn is outstanding.

Due to it’s critical acclaim in the UK, a spin-off series was created called “This is England ’86”, “This is England ’88” and “This Is England ’90”. It is set in the years after the movie and contains the entire original acting crew. I must say I’m very anxious to get my hands on those as I want to know how young Shaun turned out.

Director: Woody Allen

Actors: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Carla Bruni, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates

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It took me a very long time to take an interest in the work of Woody Allen. I’ve been into movies for as long as I can remember, but somehow, for some reason, I never picked up on him. I did see “Match Point” once, on television and merely by accident. I liked it, but I didn’t even know I was looking at a Woody Allen-movie at the time. All that changed recently, because of this movie: “Midnight In Paris”. What a refreshing surprise that movie is. As a complete Allen-rookie, I didn’t know what to expect. But still, it is funny,witty, slides into unexpected turns and most of all, its scenario is one of the up-most original.

Gil (Owen Wilson) is a successful screenwriter but is struggling to finish his first novel. When he joins his fiancée and her parents on a trip to Paris, the city re-sparks his desire to be a serious writer.  He idolizes the bohemian Paris of the 1920’s. And one evening, when strolling around the alleys of Paris by himself, the unimaginable happens…

No need to say that my curiosity for Allen’s other work was tickled after this. Soon after this film I watched ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and just a few days ago I saw “To Rome With Love”. I loved them both. And although I still have tons of Woody Allen-homework to do, I do consider myself a fan now.