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Filmstudio during COVID-19

As you might have noticed, we are due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic currently unable to show any movies on the big screen. But as most of us are spending their precious time at home we felt the urge to provide each and every one of you feeling that certain entertainment itch out there – or rather in there – with that certain entertainment scratch. Being unable to show our planned out program, we certainly can recommend alternatives. Sometimes more, mostly less fitting the situation which can be digested ergonomically in one’s own home and respective sleep deprivation entertainment chamber – where it’s only 30 seconds to mars, i.e. the next chocolate bar. In the same breath as recommendation algorithms are capable of narrowing the gap between movie trailers and cat memes down to three clicks or less, we are attempting to do the same but Filmstudio-curated and away from the gravitational pull of the dark side of the algorithm bubble moon. You guessed right in that there’s no money in it for us but maybe someone discovers something deliciously delighting them for the foreseeable future or at least for long enough until we can actually show the originally intended movies again.

Michi's Favourite Movies

Hey there, fellow surfers of the worldwide interwebs! My name is Michi (short for Michael), I have been a computer science student at RWTH for my entire adult life and currently I am either the CEO or COO or executive secretary or whatever you call this position wherein you handle the Filmstudio’s finances. My hobbies are fishing, bear-hunting and watching movies for the very reasonable price of three Euros per film. Although, as a member I enjoy the friends and family discount and pay three Euros less (*wink, wink, nudge, nudge* join us). Usually, my friends from the Filmstudio only come to me to ask for money as per my function within the club, but this time I was asked to write a little about myself and my favourite movies. So, here is a list of six movies I came up with to recommend to you fine folks out there. Enjoy!

Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Let’s begin with the compulsory Kubrick pick that belongs on any credible wannabe film critic’s top whatever list. After some back and forth, I finally settled on Dr. Strangelove rather than Full Metal Jacket because in my opinion, Dr. Strangelove is Kubrick’s most focused movie. Also, I like comedies, and this doesn’t really come through from the rest of my list, I think there can’t be a best-of list without George C. Scott.

In this film, published the same year my mother was born, a U.S. Army general, who is really into conspiracy theories, commands to drop a nuke on the Soviets. So it is up to British officer Mandrake (Peter Sellers) to try and talk the general out of his delusions while President Muffley (also Sellers) and general Turgidson (George C. Scott) are doing their best to keep the peace with Moscow.

While later Kubrick movies tend to explore more abstract topics and lose themselves a bit too much in visuals for my taste, Dr. Strangelove is pretty clear in terms of its message and hilarious to boot. The quote “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!” along with the scene where Peter Sellers sponges quarters off of a U.S. marine in an effort to save the world from thermonuclear annihilation via a payphone may be the greatest allegories to foreign politics ever. In a time when most people were genuinely afraid of nuclear warfare, director Stanley Kubrick does an excellent job in demonstrating why humankind maybe shouldn’t be the species in possession of the earth’s destruction codes.

Robocop (1987)
From Peter Sellers to Peter Weller. There are plenty of good reasons why Robocop shouldn’t be missing from a best-of list. Be it the entertainingly over the top action courtesy of 80s US cinema using almost exclusively practical effects, a good portion of sarcasm few directors can match or the quotability of basically every single line of dialog. For me personally, it comes down to the fact that Robocop simply is a perfect movie as it achieves everything it sets out to accomplish.

The plot may be razor-thin, but that’s hardly the point. In a future crime-ridden Detroit, a private company puts officer Murphy, who has been shot to bits, inside a machine in an attempt to create the ultimate crime fighting weapon. That’s more or less it.

Much more important than what is going on in this case is how the story is being told. Every character is incredibly over the top. Starting with the insanely reckless thug Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and ending with the unapologetically robotic performance of Peter Weller as Robocop, every character is gloriously exaggerated, and for this exact reason, works perfectly in Paul Verhoeven‘s sarcastic action sci-fi capitalism critique / existential drama about what it means to be human. I‘d buy that for a dollar!

Spirited Away (2001)
From one perfect film to the next. As was the case for most Studio Ghibli movies, I never really cared all that much for Spirited Away as a child. I gravitated more towards the colourful world of Pixar and Disney and I still find the majority of Pixar movies to be layered, well put together and enjoyable. However, now that I’m all grown up, I can definitely appreciate Studio Ghibli’s metaphor-riddled and gorgeously 2D-animated pictures much more.

Based on what I heard from friends, I would assume most people know about Spirited Away and have seen at least parts of it. I also don’t want to give anything away as I think this film can’t really be described that well, it should be experienced. That’s because Spirited Away isn’t a very literal movie. Suffice to say, the German title which roughly translates into “Chihiro’s trip to spirit land” provides a pretty good summary of what might be going on in the movie.

Compared to other Ghibli productions like Princess Mononoke or Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away is less dramatic and instead more reflective. I love the creative framework provided by the bath house for spirits and gods our main character finds herself in. Every character does double duty and works perfectly both as part of the literal story as well as a representation of different aspects of adult life and corporate working environments. Nothing more to add, simply a masterpiece.

Drive (2011)
For the last five years when somebody asked me about my favourite movie, my go-to answer was: “At the moment probably Drive.” No doubt there are “objectively better” movies, maybe even on this very list, but Drive just feels like a movie especially made for me.

A taciturn stunt/getaway driver (Ryan Gosling) befriends his neighbour who happens to be a young mother (played by Carey Mulligan). When her husband (Oscar Isaac) comes home from jail, the driver offers his help in settling some overdue business.

Besides the already mentioned cast members, Drive also features Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, and Ron Perlman, and everyone delivers a flawless performance. The action scenes are shot just as they should be in my opinion: Intense, with clear motivation and purpose and with stunning cinematography. Drive is about a person acting morally dubious at best, outright reprehensible at worst, in his pursuit of purpose, deconstructing the classic action hero. All that on top of the excellent, synth y soundtrack makes Drive what I find to be a stylized, entertaining, as well as emotional and thought-provoking experience. Everything just comes together so nicely and creates a movie I can watch over and over.

Starlet (2012)
Although I’ve only seen Starlet once all the way through, I was infatuated enough to add it to this list. And not solely for having an indie hipster flick nobody knows or cares about, but also to include at least one movie whose IMDb keywords feature the term “unsimulated sex”.

Young porn actress Jane (Dree Hemingway) buys an unassuming thermos from the aging widow Sadie (Besedka Johnson) at a yard sale after discovering a large amount of cash hidden inside it. Since Sadie is struggling financially and didn’t know what she gave away, Jane starts feeling guilty and tries to make it up to the lonely lady by keeping her company.

To everyone familiar with director Sean Baker it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve seen few movies that manage to hold one’s attention this well without having a lot going on. We follow the young and naïve Jane clinging to aged and bitter Sadie as they either go to the local bingo hall or shop for groceries. Now and then, we spend time with Jane and her roommate smoking weed or learn about their landlord Mikey’s (James Ransone) grand plans to break into the adult movie industry. I think it’s the authentic and reliable portrayal of the characters and their struggles and dreams what keeps this movie going. In the end you wish almost everybody, especially the two protagonists Jane and Sadie a happy conclusion to their story. A kind of hidden gem for all you people out there, spending way too much time thinking about other people’s issues.

The VVitch (2015)
Concluding with the sort-of-horror movie that excited critics and put audiences to sleep all around the world. On closer inspection, The VVitch is more of a family drama than a horror film, but it’s just so darn bleak, eery and unconventional that most put it into that corner. I genuinely cannot say what it is about The VVitch that makes it so watchable to me, but I love it, nevertheless.

The story takes place in New England of the sixteen hundreds. A family – made up of father (Ralph Inseon), mother (Kate Dickie), oldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son (Harvey Scrimshaw), a pair of twins and a new-born – sets out to settle an uninhabited stretch of land. Plagued by misfortune and trapped in a desperate situation, distrust and resentment starts tearing the family apart.

The VVitch’s strongest asset in my opinion is the constant, slowly building tension. While we, the audience, get to see all viewpoints and thus know exactly what is actually going on, each character is limited by their own prejudices, beliefs, and ignorance regarding the bigger picture. Ultimately, their transgressions and inability to relate to one another drives their hostility towards each other which ultimately leads to their dire situation. Although this is Robert Eggers’ directorial debut, the uncanny precision with which the film is assembled is reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining. As such, following the characters as they put themselves into an increasingly hopeless position keeps you at the edge of your home cinema seat. Completely without jump scares and CGI demons, The VVitch creates a deliberately dreadful atmosphere showing once again: The most terrible monster of all is… man (duuum, duuum, duh)!

03.06.2020

Emily's Favourite Movies

Hello, to all you diligent couch cinema critics! My name is Emily, and right now I am the first chairwoman of our fun little (currently cinema-deprived) group of cinephiles. Here, I’ve brought you a few of my favorite movies – maybe you’ll find something new to watch, or maybe it simply gives you the urge to dig up some of your own old favorites…!

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
This quirky-strange comedy, directed by the Coen Brothers (well… so far, the description matches nearly any of their movies), plays around 1930 in the Deep South of the U.S. of A. We follow three escaped prisoners on their obstacle-studded treasure hunt for that small fortune that might give ‘em the chance to start anew. The story is loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey, and as such, they encounter all sorts o’ strange folk – from cyclopes and seductive sirens to crazy KKK members – all the while being pursued by the devil incarnate! For those of y’all who are especially attentive, it might be fun tryin’ to find all the historical errors built into this movie (mostly intentionally). And, as y’all might ha’ reconned, I get a giggle out o’ them character’s southern accents…

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
The songs from this memorably magnificent musical adaptation by Norman Jewison have accompanied me since childhood – amongst others of course those catchy tunes To Life! and If I Were A Rich Man. Through the eyes of the Jewish dairyman Tevye, most charmingly and convincingly portrayed by Topol, we experience the conflicts of love, belief, and traditiooooon! in the Christian-Jewish shtetl of Anatevka around the time of persecution and Pogrom in the Russian empire. I’ll admit, this movie always ends in a sea of ambivalent tears for me…

The Lord of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
Well, I guess this title is rather self-explanatory, isn’t it? Please forgive me for not offering you a more unknown insider’s tip with this one, but it is a list of my favourites. And, being a massive LOTR fan myself (yes, I’ve read the books, and yes, I watched the extended editions and behind-the-scenes footage…) I couldn’t help myself but put this movie adaptation by Peter Jackson of J. R. R. Tolkien’s books on my list. And who knowns… maybe this is a wake-up call for some of you to have a LOTR marathon night again…?

Corpse Bride (2005)
This dark musical, directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson, is for those of you, who are up for a colourful and lively evening with the dead. To me, the most fascinating aspects are the artful visuals and technical expertise of this movie. And if you find yourself thoroughly puzzled by the end of it, how these typically Burtonesque spider-legged, large-headed characters managed to stay upright through the entirety of this stop motion animation, I’d recommend checking out the very interesting and entertaining making-of.

In Order of Disappearance (2014)
It appears, that with this title by Hans Petter Moland, an action thriller made it onto my list – and it serves all the stereotypical traits a good revenge storyline should have. As such, it’s no surprise to encounter drug deals, bloody murders and never-ending conflicts between two rivaling Mafia gangs. And aside from Stellan Skarsgård’s convincing performance as the vengeful father, you’ll find quite a few more delightfully original characters in this movie – perhaps the most amusing one being the ever-so troubled, single parent, vegan Mafia boss. Oh, and all this entertaining mayhem takes place in the icy snow of Norway.

27.05.2020

Yussef's Favourite Movies

Introducing: Yussef, sometimes studying engineering, other times engaging musically, mostly just sipping drinks at the office maintaining appearances as the vice guy at this Filmstudio. There, I write blog stuff for film recommendations, assemble the program – if there were any to speak of – deal with cooperation efforts – again, if there were any possible right now – and vote for all the shitty art house movies, that delight me whilst putting off huge chunks of our audience :)

Choosing favourite movies or to paraphrase slightly: Giving me a major headache trying to balance this collection of movies for recommendability, personal affection, anecdotal quality, ease of watching, aspirations of the work, influential character… The list might never end. As an act of compression, I at least tried to give a glimpse into singular works of my favourite creative craft people instead of delving into each of their respective works. (In hindsight: Might have done it anyway.) Quick! Before my train of thought derails further.

I always was and will be the biggest fanboy for the works of directing and screenwriting brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. While dipping their creative feet into all kinds of genres, they maintained a recognizably dark yet quirky humour and an array of quirky yet real characters persisting throughout. The list is long and diverse: From Fargo (1998), which was adapted into an equally fascinating Netflix series, to cult comedy classic The Big Lebowski (1998), suspenseful finger nail annihilator No country for old men (2007), touching folk music homage Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), Odysseus-in-America-simulator O Brother, where art thou? (2000) to crushing yet hilarious loss of faith journey A serious man (2009).

But especially Barton Fink (1991) is a microcosm of all that aforementioned weirdness, that allows scenes to be light-heartedly funny yet darkish and frightening at the same time. Herein, John Turturro is a successful broadway author getting into Hollywood while trying not to sell out and maintaining his focus on the everyday man. The resulting writer’s block followed by a slow but steady descent into madness is visualised by ambiguous images of maybe imagined conversations with the police, creepy hotel personnel and Hollywood stereotypes, but mostly John Goodman as his room neighbour and devil or nazi or serial killer or all of the above? But don’t think about it for too long, because the hotel is already on fire and the lady on the back of the necktie is alive or maybe she isn’t – who knows?

On to the next chaotic creative: Charlie Kaufman, who might not once in his life as a screenwriter have delivered a conventional script. In that regard, Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (2004) serves the double purpose of being a phrase in an Alexander Pope poem and the title of a movie about choosing a surely failing love and the justification of doing so. The movie stars a diverse cast, containing a depressed Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet’s multiple hair colours, by which the viewer can navigate through and reassemble the movie’s fractured timeline, as well as Frodo (Elijah Wood) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) operating a memory erasure machine. Too conventional of a casting selection? Charlie Kaufman also offers Being John Malkovich (1999) starring John Malkovich as John Malkovich, wherein most roles are played by and do in fact depict John Malkovich. Still too conventional? Try stop motion puppet animation movie Anomalisa (2015), in which a man is desperately looking for long lost enthusiasm in love and life in general. To emphasize this decolouring of emotions, every other character in the movie has the same voice and the same basic (puppet) face, whether they are men or women, old or young. Anomalisa was also awarded for its authentic and believable depiction of nudity and sexuality, while still being a movie very much only starring puppets. Now, that’s something I’d put on my CV!

And Kaufman-last but not Kaufman-least: Adaptation (2012). A movie so meta, that it depicts its own process of creation. It’s the Xzibit meme of meta narratives. To semi-elaborate: Charlie Kaufman (the real one) is tasked to adapt a book for the big screen, suffers writer’s block and instead tries to depict the adaptation process itself as the movie’s story. It is the real story of the movie and the story depicted in the movie at the same time. Which means, the story undergoes massive changes, when Charlie Kaufman (now the fictional character but – as was mentioned – kind of the real one as well) decided to change it up, for example for something more light-hearted. Did I mention that Charlie Kaufman is played by Nicolas Cage? Did I mention that Donald Kaufman, Charlie Kaufman’s fictional brother, is also played by Nicolas Cage? It’s a mess. A beautiful, weird and one-of-a-kind mess.

From complex and quirky to complex and contemplative, introducing: Cinema’s philosopher, one Andrei Tarkovsky. Still considered one of the greats having only delivered seven movies before his early demise presumed cause being exposure to chemical waste close to Stalker’s (1979) shooting location resulting in multiple cancer cases within the crew. The Russian director used his movies to explore emotions, moments and the beauty of nature rather than to elaborate on complex stories. Exhaustively long shots and slow explorations of facial expressions, nature and dream-like compositions, that create a more deliberate and deliberately meditative experience, while always being highly autobiographical in certain aspects. One autobiographical aspect is shown in my favourite of his, his penultimate movie Nostalghia (1983). It is his exploration of his protagonist’s and – in extension his own – grave feelings of home sickness towards the Soviet Union while living in Italy. It actually doesn’t go much deeper than I just explained, story-wise. It’s the protagonist’s perception of his surroundings and his efforts to deal with these emotions, that take centre stage in the movie.

Okay, only one more movie. Let’s pick Road to Perdition (2002) by director Sam Mendes. Mendes, who also delivered American Beauty, Jarhead, the younger bond flicks Skyfall and Spectre as well as last year’s one take wonder and Oscar snatcher 1917. Road to Perdition is Mendes’ exploration of a comic book adaptation of a mob movie, that rather focusses on father-son relationships than on the inner workings of the Irish mob, thus being much quieter than most of its mob movie peers. Herein, Tom Hanks plays the unusual role of a killer for father figure Paul Newman and his clan, whose son witnesses him murdering and thus becomes a target himself. The emerging story of father and son fleeing and simultaneously searching for retribution almost evokes road movie vibes, if it weren’t for the fatalistic touch of the story. No major character chooses or wishes for the movie’s events to happen yet is forced to due to familial bonds and obligations. It evolves into a question of existential determinism of sons following into their fathers’ footsteps and if that even is a matter of choice. Still not convinced? Conrad L. Hall – as his last Oscar receiving effort as director of photography – makes it all look sexy as hell (figuratively).

Sigh, okay, maybe one more. Because dang it, if A Sun (2019) is not one of the most moving and sad and uplifting movies in recent memory, while also having been made in Taiwan, a place very dear to me. It’s a venture into the choice between rejection and empathy and learning the latter, when the universe seemingly decides to tear your life and family apart in the blink of an eye. It’s on Netflix, peeps.

Please don’t leave, I swear I’m almost done! But it would be inexcusable not to mention Super – Shut up, crime! (2010). It’s the fucked-up superhero movie you didn’t know you wanted! For all of you critical of superhero vigilantism but not quite satisfied with Hancock’s gimmicky-ness and Watchmen’s lacking film adaptation. Also, Ellen Page plays a nymphomaniac hyper brutal side kick and I really don’t know how any of you would need any more convincing beyond that point. While I’m at it, Studio Ghibli shouldn’t even be necessary to mention, but obviously only make the most beautiful of films, My Neighbor Totoro (1988) is just the word “cozy” in the shape of 88 minutes of visual entertainment. Aaaaaaaand everything Wes Anderson ever crammed onto a reel of film. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)? *Chef’s kiss*! And, oh shit. Did I forget Mulan? MULAN! How could I have forgotten MULAN?!??! AND DID YOU WATCH BLADERUNNER 2049?!?

20.05.2020

Home-Alternative - The Farewell

On March 18th we would have loved to show you Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. I guess we owe it to cosmic irony that the first movie being cut due to counter-pandemic precautions is titled The Farewell. Yet let’s cling to the more optimistic German idiomatic counterpart “Auf Wiedersehen” regarding us not showing movies for the not-quite-foreseeable future. It seems twice as ironic and deplorable, regarding the partly Chinese origin of the movie – unfortunately, movies of non-western origin don’t often get to see the light of day around these corners. Then it seems even thrice as ironic, in regard to the Chinese origin of the current pandemic, so being open to Chinese people and Chinese culture would have been a welcome exercise in these times, in which generalized condemnation and avoidance seem like the go-to reactions.

In this movie, based on a true story, we follow grandma Nai Nai and her family getting together in China to celebrate a big wedding. As it turns out, the wedding is only a superficial excuse to gather the family around Nai Nai one last time, since she is fatally ill with cancer – but ironically, the only one who is not in on the whole charade is Nai Nai herself. The storyline evolves into a cultural dialog between granddaughter and New York resident Billi (Awkwafina), and her Chinese heritage. Fun fact find: Nai Nai is the literal translation of a father’s mother, so not the most creative of nick names.

Based on a true story, life-threatening illness, family gathering meets cultural collision, seasoned with generous pinches of humour? Did you say… The Big Sick? Containing all mentioned similarities, this Amazon production by married screen writer couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani depicts their relationship’s origin story, so to speak. Kumail – played by Nanjiani himself – is herein torn between the family’s expectations of a traditional Pakistani marriage, Emily’s reserved parents, and a coma Emily falls into shortly after them meeting. Without a doubt much more on the RomCom side of things, yet entertaining as well, and retrievable within Amazon Prime.

Those of you who have yet to quench their lust for Chinese or Taiwanese movies can check out The Sun on Netflix or Ash is purest white on Amazon Prime. Both are highly contemporary dramas, creating an atmospheric intensity through negative space. And both have a very distinctive style, especially contextualized in the culture shaping them. Similarly to the film Parasite, which manages to merge Korean culture as well as contemporary criticism of capitalism and class conflict, The Sun portrays life in Taiwan culture-specifically, while universally illustrating intra-familial drama and personal history haunting one’s life – no matter how hard one tries to shake it or put it behind oneself.

For those of you who are seeking a wider idea of Chinese culture for that diverting little culture kick, you might want to try out the game Mahjong. If you’re the type of person to get a nostalgic rush of endorphins at the sight of the card mayhem after winning a Windows 98 Solitaire game – then you might be able to revive that feeling by playing this variant of the Chinese game. Alternatively, you can always support your local Asian supermarket or delivery service, as their existence is currently in jeopardy, just as many other’s are. And who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favourite umami-flavoured pot of gold at the foot of the grand aroma rainbow – far off from the culinarily explored potato horizon. So, go (wasabi) nuts!

Perhaps a few ones among you might know Nora Lum, the lead actress of The Farewell, by her alias Awkwafina. Though she was recently honoured with a Golden Globe for her performance in The Farewell, she is also known for her rapping. Both of her records can be found on Spotify, amongst which you will find the feminist counterpart My Vag to all the diss tracks, in which the ego ruler is held up to any symbolic (or non-symbolic) phallus. A personal favourite and little extra tip is her feature song Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You.

Since it still isn’t every day that you see movies executed by women in direction, cinematography, script etc. we will now briefly move the spotlight onto female directors:

Here, especially Greta Gerwig – also known for her acting – has recently been attracting attention with her self-scripted films, as well as adapted ones, such as Lady Bird and Little Women. Both focused on the mother-daughter(s) bond. We ourselves are hoping to be able to show Little Women towards the end of the year… but if not, we’ll be sure to bring you some more info on Lady Bird here in the blog a few weeks from now. A little spoiler in advance: That movie be great. That movie be on Amazon Prime.

Just as noteworthy are the Wachowski Sisters, Lena & Lilly, who’ve brought some few little movies to the big screen… such as Matrix (Sky Ticket/Go), V for Vendetta (Netflix), and Cloud Atlas (to rent on Amazon Prime). Another worthy mention is their Netflix production Sense8. It is similar to the small-town superhero series Heroes, only that it simultaneously creates the impression of trying to counterbalance the absence of LGBTQIA representation in all the rest of current entertainment – all compressed into two short seasons. Reason enough to recommend this to all you curious people.

However, if you love The Farewell’s director Lulu Wang herself so much… well, then maybe you should marry her. At least that’s what Barry Jenkins did, being a successful director himself. Jenkins is known for movies, such as If Beale Street could talk and Moonlight. The latter won the Oscar for Best Movie 2017 and is available on Netflix. We follow the story’s protagonist Little through three phases of his life and watch, as his development of personal identity clashes with the expectations and stereotypes the world he grows up in lays upon him – and we watch, as people with any healthy influence on him and his personal development retreat further away from him.

The excellent music of both of Jenkins movies is credited to Nicholas Britell. Whoever finds his music especially worth-while can also find it in The King (Netflix) and The Big Short (to rent on Amazon Prime). Alternatively, the soundtracks to all of the above listed movies can be found and enjoyed on Spotify. Especially the soundtrack to Beale Street creates a kind of warm melancholy, a sense of wonderful longing, and a dash of comforting homesickness – to make you forget this social distance, even just for a blissful moment or two.

29.04.2020

Home-Alternative - Bad Boys for Life

Today we originally wanted to watch Bad Boys for Life with you.

After 17 long years of waiting for a sequel, Miami detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) return to the big screen along with explosive action and witty one-liners. You can find some of them on quotes.net, if you want to freshen up your memory of the past movies. Thanks to the lengthy development of the story, this movie does not only contain carefree fun and a lot of action but a comprehensible storyline, which answers questions and plot holes of the first two movies, too.

But gladly, even Popcorn movie escapism can be translated from the big screen into the smaller screens out there, whether they be your TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone and/or smartwatch. However big or small your preferred device might be. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and neither do our first suggestions for you as the first alternatives to Bad Boys for Life are – you guessed it – its predecessors Bad Boys and Bad Boys II. You will find both on Netflix and the second one on Amazon Prime as well. To prevent confusion: You will most likely come across the FSK16 version, which leaves out some scenes to make it more age appropriate. But with a sense of poetic justice, this version contains scenes, which are not within the original cut. Maybe you wouldn’t even have noticed, but now you are warned. Whichever version you end up watching, great entertainment and a taste for the new Bad Boys is guaranteed and you don’t even have to worry, that the fun is about to end, because Bad Boys 4 has already been announced.

For those of you, who prefer buddy movies and could do with less action yet more jokes, you should take a good look at the American comedy Ride Along. In this movie Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) has to tag along on a police patrol to prove he is tough enough to marry James Payton’s (Ice Cube) sister. A few harmless car chases, a cool and tight-lipped Cop and a nerve-wrecking chatterbox might just be enough to slowly warm you up to the action-genre.

Those who want more of Will Smith will find an entire mountain of alternatives. Starting with his oldest project The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, for which he contributed the infamous theme song that you probably also heard once or twice or a hundred times at karaoke parties. If you are ready for your next binge marathon just look it up on Netflix and you will find plenty. That Will Smith has got a neck for theme songs and music in general is also evident in the Men in Black trilogy, which you can find on Netflix or Amazon Prime and if you don’t know what song I am talking about you know what you will watch this evening – if only to find out how many funny cameos are hidden in this movie, like the late Michael Jackson. If you are already set to watch a cop movie but now thought about all the great Sci-Fi elements of MIB we recommend you the Netflix original Bright. Just two cops cleaning up a rather racist LA with one of them being Will Smith and his partner just so happening to be an Orc.

Those of you who like to pride themselves with trivia knowledge might already know that the Story of Bad Boys for life was co-written by Peter Craig, who also wrote the adapted screenplay for Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy. Since Harry Potter’s and Twilight’s releases no other movie franchise was as big a hit as these four movies (the last book is split into two movies) among teenager and young adults. Do not mention this while Percy Jackson is in the room, though…
Loyalty, love, power and friendship alike are tested in this dystopian world. The first two movies are available on Amazon prime and all four within the Maxdome flat. Talking about trivia facts: The word “Panem” derives from the Latin phrase “Panem et circenses”, meaning “Bread and Games”. The Romans already acknowledged that arena fights fascinate the masses and distract the population from other things. A tradition enthusiastically continued by the government of Panem. The movies follow the personal character journey of its protagonist – portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence – and deals with psychological questions like the compulsion to kill and other socially critical themes like manipulative Media and the power of propaganda.

With this last suggestion we are closing this Blockbuster-Blogbuster in eager anticipation of all the entertaining movies, which await us at an unknown release date in the future but for sure at some point.

15.04.2020

Home-Alternative - Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

Happy Easter, peeps! Just like Jesus rose, so would have risen Skywalker in Star Wars Chapter IX today.

Hollywood’s rebirther of franchises J.J.Abrams herein delivers the pedestrial Ascension, i.e. the skywalk, of the sequel trilogy, that – alongside Star Trek (Amazon Prime) in 2009 – he resurrected with The Force Awakens in 2015.

In doing so, he is merely one of many tools in Disney’s Star Wars shed, that continue to detonate an omnidirectional content explosion for over five years now. Being purposefully contained within their platform Disney+, here is just a quick glance over content, that the Star Wars IP gained since 2015: The trilogy consisting of chapter VII: The Force Awakens, chapter VIII: The Last Jedi and chapter IX: Rise of Skywalker, the spin-off “Star Wars stories” Rogue One and Solo, more content for the animated series Clone Wars and Rebels and last but not least the first season of live action series The Mandalorian. Considering the high court of digitally ravishing internet communities, I won’t even dare to plead for completeness of that list.

The Mandalorian earns some special praise here by not even attempting delusions of grandeur and telling rather personal stories of new characters, that are more reminiscent of old westerns, set at some point in time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Due to Baby Yoda sucking all the viral energy out of the reporting around The Mandalorian, let’s focus on two other cool partakers in the cast. There’s German directorial legend Werner Herzog, who plays what boils down to a space Nazi clinging to his rank in the fallen empire – including bad German accent and all, it’s a delight. And then there is Giancarlo Esposito, who remains just as intimidating as his depiction of Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad, all whilst rocking a pencil moustache.

Apart from visual media, there is also Star Wars’ big and colourful world of merchandise, which simply by existing for over 40 years now had to have accumulated its fair share of weird stuff within that world. This delightful top 10 list can help reassuring you of that very fact.

Existing for this long also paves the way for a lot of inspired work, be they made by fans with loving intent or opportunists, who just want to ride the wave. Little sketches like this one from Saturday Night Live can show, how the world of Star Wars could look like dragged into our much weirder world of undercover boss reality TV shows – played by actual Kylo Ren actor Adam Driver.

Movies like Battle Star Wars (Amazon Prime) on the other hand, can show us how Star Wars could look, if it was much, much worse.

Or maybe the real-world US’ Central Intelligence Agency wants to try plagiarizing Star Wars. Interesting thought experiment? They did, though, to get a license to enter Iran back in 1979 when the US embassy was occupied and diplomats were in dire need of evacuation. Director and sad man Batman Ben Affleck depicts these events in his Oscar-winning thriller from 2012 called Argo – based on the name the fake movie was called.

More in the realms of fan-made but nonetheless noteworty is Aachen’s own Shawn Bu and his short film DARTH MAUL: Apprentice - A Star Wars Fan-Film. You can find the whole movie and some “behind the scenes” stuff on Youtube, just to revel in the production value compared to the smallness of the team behind it.

So far, I have efficiently been able to dogde getting into the movie itself by discussing all the fuzz around Star Wars in general. But giving any opinion – while there is plenty on the internet, I can assure you of that – would serve no purpose here. So, saturate your confirmation bias your algorithm bubble might feed into, be that bias derived from childhood nostalgia, deep affiliation with the expanded universe, annoyance over all the hype, doesn’t matter. Acknowledge your expectations and then enjoy the movie for what it is. The end of a trilogy, but Star Wars has already proven twice, that finitude is a concept that is bewildering to Star Wars and even more to Disney. Speaking of overstaying one’s welcome regarding trilogy: Multi-millionaire Movie-making Masterminds George Lucas and Steven Spielberg managed to pull the trilogy franchise stunt a second time with Indiana Jones. And then, in the same breath, decided to not conclude and instead add crystal skulls and Shia LaBeouf into the equation. But even ending a trilogy on a high note with the actual third part has proven to be non-trivial. Examination pieces 1 & 2: Matrix Revolutions (Sky Ticket, Sky Go) by the Wachowski sisters or Godfather III (Amazon Prime) by Francis Ford Coppola. Both most certainly made by skilled craftswomen and -men yet doomed by bearing their iconic predecessors’ names. Some movies just have irreplaceable Brand(o) recognition.

Even J.J. Abrams had to get involved into yet another trilogy with Mission Impossible III. Fans of self-explanatory Tom Cruise action shenanigans will find the first three parts inside Amazon Prime’s video library. And, to introduce Steven Spielberg back into the equation, these two collaborated on Super 8. This 2011 proto Stranger Things with added lens flares found its way onto the STARZ channel on Amazon, where it can be watched freely within a trial period.

Today’s stream of consciousness finally disembogues into a musical breather and a man, who contributed music for a surprising number of mentioned movies. You might have already had a song of his stuck in your head without even knowing it was Michael Giacchino. The opportunities are plentiful, considering his contributions only within the Pixar universe, them being Ratatouille, The Incredibles 1 & 2, Inside Out and Up (Recommended: The song Married Life).

Also, there are his soundtracks for Star Wars story Rogue One and J.J. Abrams’ projects’ Cloverfield, Lost and Star Trek, to mention only a few. In conclusion: If that man does not provide at least a single thing anyone out there can enjoy, then I guess I underestimated the internet once again.

14.04.2020

Home-Alternative - When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Today we would have shown you the German film When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, based on the book by Judith Kerr. It’s the autobiographical chapter of her family fleeing the emerging Nazi regime of ’33 to ’35, passing through Switzerland and France to eventually arrive in England. The loss of the pink stuffed animal rabbit is herein elevated to the symbol of them being forced to leave all material belongings behind. The book is part of a trilogy of novels that accompanies Judith Kerr's life until 1956.

Let’s dive deeper into mostly German productions today to challenge their – sometimes rightfully but not generally deserved – bad reputation when compared to their international peers. We’ll start with the German Oscar winner of 2007: The Lives of Others. It takes place in 1984’s GDR, where and when playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his partner Christina-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) live in a wiretapped apartment to be monitored by Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe). Anyone who has not yet infiltrated their respective significant other’s Netflix account is hereby advised to do so, as it is currently available there.

Already straying away shortly from German production, we rather recommend an American reaction to German’s darkest hour, depicting the arguably most mystified person of the modern world. And not just any reaction, but that of – silent picture icon, yet first time talkative here – Charlie Chaplin with The Great Dictator from 1940. Imagine doing that as early as 1940. The BRD would need five more years to start the process of denazification, another four to be founded in the first place and yet another nine years to show the movie to the general public, just to give some historical context. Chaplin’s concluding speech remains legendary and impactful. So much so, that it is used in modern music like this to create a multi-layered gesamtkunstwerk. As of today (April 8th), this film is freely available for students on the platform MUBI for another six days. Or for anyone with an Amazon prime subscription as part of a MUBI test subscription.

If you are more into series binging, you could take another look at the ARD media library. Besides mostly guilty pleasures (it’s okay, we all do it) like ‘Tatort’, ‘Sturm der Liebe’ and the Sunday fairy tale, you can discover Babylon Berlin’s first two seasons. The German crime television series set in the Weimar Republic is about Cologne-based commissioner Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), who moves to Berlin and investigates there with Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries). It was also part of the exhibition “Modern Cinema - Film of the Weimar Republic” in Bonn’s Bundeskunsthalle. If you are interested, you can also browse their archive. Not quite like being there, but maybe a welcome dose of that savory taste of culture.

If you want to see more Carla Juri – who plays Mother Dorothea in today’s topical movie – I can recommend the film Paula, another biographical piece. This one deals with the life of artist Paula Modersohn-Becker, who sadly died in young age. You can rent this movie on Amazon for 2.98€. Sounding unbeknownst to you yet raising curiosity? There sometimes are special exhibitions in the region containing her early, expressionist paintings. However, since we cannot visit museums at the moment, take a look at this small online exhibition of hers.

If you don’t know us for long or weren’t quite aware of its greatness, The Invisibles might have slipped your perception when we showed it in 2018. The story is about four adolescents, who managed to turn "invisible" during the Second World War, as the title suggests. The film is accentuated with original interviews by the four, where they reminisce about living and staying alive. Highly unlikely we will show it again any time soon, but you can lend it from Amazon for a small bargain.

Other films I wanted to mention are Annaluise & Anton – also directed by Caroline Link and included within the Amazon Prime membership – as well as Roman Polanskis The Pianist, which tells the true story of polish composer Wladyslaw Szpilman – victim of the infamous process of ghettoization. Universally recommendable for its plea for humanity. You can also watch it on Amazon Prime for about 3€, however set aside both time and handkerchiefs.

08.04.2020

Home-Alternative - Joker

This evening we would have loved to present to you Todd Phillips’ psycho thriller / comic book chimera of a movie Joker to start off the summer semester. To be frank, we had expected this movie to perform quite well, so we already had a second screening date in our back pocket. Unfortunately, this ain’t gonna happen now and probably not in the immediate future, either.

Although things may look bleak for us, we’re still well off compared to the citizens of 1981’s Gotham City. In this origin story of the iconic Batman villain, the full time clown performer and amateur stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck more or less accidentally becomes a symbol for the downtrodden lower class, who violently riot in the streets against such elites as the Wayne family. The focus of the movie however clearly lies on  Arthur Fleck’s vulnerable yet mentally unstable character, which is defined by the unsettlingly authentic performance by Joaquin Phoenix. So much so, that he can now count himself among the club of well-deserved Oscar-winning Joker actors next to Heath Ledger. Thus, Joker replaces the explosion filled car chases of its trigger-happy predecessors with scenes, in which our hero baths his elderly mother or discusses budget-cuts in the social sector forcing him to drop his mental health medication. Still, Joker belongs on the big screen, due to both Lawrence Sher’s tense and gloomy cinematography as well as Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Oscar-winning soundtrack. So everyone, who sees themselves incapable of waiting to see the movie at our cinema but is willing to fork out close to double what we charge, is hereby begrudgingly referred to any online streaming offers.

The role of the clown prince of crime has always been a magnet for the more eccentric proponents of method acting. Starting with one of the all-time Hollywood greats (and possibly real-life madman) Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman, passing the aforementioned Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, who funnily enough already began his acting career as a clown in the 1995 children’s series Clowning Around, up to Thirty Seconds to Mars’ lead singer and yet another Best Supporting Actor Oscar owner Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. To you people, who prefer seeing a billionaire / playboy / real-life voice modulator endlessly punch goons in the face, let me remind you that all of the caped crusader’s latest exploits are available on Netflix. Most notably, my personal favorite, Christopher Nolan’s excellent trilogy. Furthermore, I’ll use the opportunity to remind everyone, who can relate to my (perhaps unwarranted) obsession with 2000’s MTV lineup, to rewatch the Stanley Kubrick inspired music video of The Kill and give Closer to the Edge another listen.

Less well known, but nonetheless great is Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill’s interpretation of the Joker character, who lends him his voice in both the numerous Batman animated serieses and movies as well as the Arkham video game adaptations. Circling back to Todd Phillips, we also have Zach Galifianakis, who voices the blocky Joker in The LEGO Batman Movie and also plays Alan from the Hangover movies (also available on Netflix). If you feel like numbing your brain before the delayed semester begins by means of prepubescent lowest-brow comedy, I additionally point you towards Todd Phillips’ masterpiece Road Trip from the year 2000 starring the well-forgotten gross-out comedian Tom Green.

Maybe you count yourself among the people, who are not into comic book movies. Well, you’re in good company as Martin Scorsese is also a critic of such films and laments young people’s understanding of cinema. Ironically, the very same man, whose movies substantially inspired Todd Phillips. Thus, you may want to check out Martin Scorsese’s 1982 film King of Comedy, in which Robert De Niro plays an overly enthusiastic fan of a comedian and talk show host portrayed by Jerry Lewis (so essentially Robert De Niro’s role in Joker). Or, if this Lynchian role reversal is too confusing for you, I’d recommend Taxi Driver also by Martin Scorsese (available on Sky). This movie matches Joker’s realistic tone and portrayal of pre-90’s run down New York City. In this movie from 1976 we follow a young De Niro driving his taxi through The Big Apple, encountering one human tragedy after another. One of the unfortunate characters we meet is an underage prostitute played by Jodie Foster. In this deconstruction of a troubled mind in a troubled city, Travis Bickle (De Niro) slowly turns into a ticking time bomb threatening to hurt both himself and the people around him.

In case you lean more towards the musical aspect of film, give Hildur Guðnadóttir’s atmospheric record Without Sinking a listen (on YouTube), who not only composed the music for Joker, but also HBO’s excellent series Chernobyl (available on Sky). Or perhaps you’re more of the nihilistic type and share Todd Phillips’ fascination with punk rock musician, misanthrop and self-proclaimed warrior soul GG Allin. That guy and his last band before his untimely, drug-related passing, who tastefully called themselves The Murder Junkies, were the subject of Todd Phillips’ first movie Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies from 1993. I feel like I once stumbled across this documentation on YouTube, but be warned: It’s not for the squeamish amongst you. Besides getting a glimpse into a bizarre microcosm of human loathing aimed at no one in particular, but everybody at once, you can look forward to low quality recordings of hardcore punk music and drunken bar brawls. Not everybody’s cup of tea, but I find it kind of fascinating.

Finally, I of course also want to mention the source material of today’s original pick and most recent big summer blockbusters alike: comic books. Whether you spent every day pre-quarantine at the local comic book store or you’re only familiar with the concept courtesy of Spiderman memes, feel free to check out Comic Book Resources. Here, you’ll find countless articles, best-ofs and naturally the most heated discussion forums amongst previews for brand-new comic issues including the myriad of -mans, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Basketful of Heads written by Joe Hill. The same guy, who wrote the source material for both Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe and the Netflix film In The Tall Grass. The latter together with his father, one Stephen King.

I dare to think this should be more than enough to get you through to next week. In that vein, Cheerio!

07.04.2020

Home-Alternative - Knives Out

Today we would have shown Rian Johnson’s high society murder mystery Knives Out.
A big mansion, an established and equally dead mystery author, an obviously staged suicide, sons, daughters and in-laws with possible motives, a worried housemaid played by Ana de Armas, if only there were a notorious and egocentric detective – and that’s where Daniel Craig enters the stage. Everything you could ask for in a whodunit spectacle, searching for the mystery’s ménage-à-trois – murderer, motive and murder weapon. In fact, so much potential that you might catch yourself expecting played out genre tropes or the complete opposite – too much genre subversion or ironically raised brows left and right. But Rian Johnson sticks the landing with this homage avoiding blatant tropes and subversions just for their own sake alike.

If you like story tapestries like these, you might also enjoy Murder on the Orient Express; either the classic adaption from 1975 – included within Amazon Prime – or the modern adaption from 2017. Still exciting, filled with tension and a prominent cast alike; like Daisy Ridley you might know as Rey from the Star Wars sequels or Ana de Armas, who coincidentally also stars in Knives Out.

Agatha Christie adaptations are instant entertainment chunks in general though. Her body of work – i.e. the holy corporis Christie – then again is hidden in the internet’s nooks and crannies but it’s worth it. Audio books on Spotify and Audible or multiple seasons of Agatha Christie’s Poirot & Marple on ARD’s media library could get you started and lost immediately for a while. And if you’re still longing for more crime mysteries after that, you could as well just stay at the media library to absorb last Sunday’s Tatort. Included right around the corner is contemplating the everlasting discussion of the best Tatort location at this survey. Spicy takes on semi- relevant topics, Tatort and the ambivalent love-hate-relationship towards GEZ, maybe it doesn’t get any more German than on this very site.

Countering posh and maybe slightly used genre tropes, David Fincher enters the ring with a broad spectrum of intense and dark thrillers under his belt. Gone Girl, The Social Network, Fight Club, Seven, the American version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, all of his making with a distinctly recognizable style. If you’re fonder of the darker murder mystery you may certainly find it in Zodiac from 2007. Prominently cast, all of which are even more famous today, does the movie follow the search for a serial killer over decades with realistically depicted police work shown through the lens of a diabolical David Fincher who always remains one step ahead of the viewer’s perception of the events.

If you are finally fed up with whodunits and the alike, you could enjoy indulging in more stuff casting actress Ana de Armas. Like, there are way worse decisions than choosing Blade Runner 2049 in that regard. In this unfortunate box office flop sequel to the original Blade Runner Ridley Scott did 35 years prior director Denis Villeneuve shows replicant Ryan Gosling searching for the meaning of synthetic life accompanied by artificially intelligent and augmented reality love interest Ana de Armas. It thereby depicts grand topics like humanity, identity and the meaning of dreams and memories in that context.

If you are more interested in Knives Out’s director Rian Johnson, you will be delighted to hear that there actually are a few hidden gems, he was creatively involved in over the years. There’s the obvious feature film Looper (Netflix or Maxdome) – following the at most fascinating, at least head scratching decision to cast Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the same person in different time travel periods. And then there’s Breaking Bad. He in fact did direct three of its episodes. It gets fascinating, when you start looking into the episodes themselves. He directed the series’ worst and arguably best episode of any series both, Fly (S3 E10) being the worst and the antepenultimate episode Ozymandias (S5B E6) being the best.

Another hidden Johnson can be found in LCD Soundsystem’s song oh baby. They made him direct the song’s music video, which is a mesmerizing example for compact, non-verbal story telling in about five minutes. Also, the song’s a blast.

If eternally discussing which one of the sequels killed Star Wars at last floats your boat, you might consider reliving Johnson contribution to the matter with part VIII, i.e. The Last Jedi. To be rented for a small fee on several on-demand services or on Disney+.

Diving deeper into Star Wars, you could regain a new hope (*winks at camera*) for the franchise with the spin off series The Mandalorian. More like old westerns, we follow the mostly silent bounty hunter only referred to as Mando while he escorts materialized internet meme Baby Yoda – played by a fully-mechanized puppet – through a galaxy far, far away. The first season is the main seller of Disney+, which just started its service in Germany.

Noticed the great music? Noticed that it is surprisingly different from John Williams’ iconic orchestrations? You just discovered Ludwig Goransson. He, who already got an Oscar for Black Panther’s original score, also worked behind the scenes of musicians and bands like Childish Gambino. He is very much co-responsible for the worldwide hit Redbone – and in extension for the whole album Awaken, my Love!

If you made it through all this and might be just as lost and wondering which film we started with, props to you and a last invitation to guess which of the links in the text doesn’t redirect you to being rick rolled. Happy first of April!

01.04.2020

Home-Alternative - The Peanut Butter Falcon

Tonight we would have shown you The Peanut Butter Falcon.
The film is about 22-year-old Zac, who is abandoned by his family because of his Down's syndrome and is placed by the authorities in the care of a nursing home. He dreams of becoming a professional wrestler. Since he can no longer bear to watch Zac's dreary life his old roommate helps him to escape one day.

For those of you who would like to watch films that deal with the everyday life and interaction of people with disabilities, we can recommend both films Crazy and What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
In the rather unknown, German film Crazy, you are taken on the coming-of-age journey of 16-year-old, hemiplegic Benjamin, who is sent to a boarding school after his parents' separation, where he only has to face typical teenage challenges. The film is based on the autobiographical novel of the same name. It can be rented for a fee via Amazon, iTunes or Youtube.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape shows the small town life of a family whose father took his own life. Gilbert and his sister Amy take on the role of surrogate parents after his death and take care of their unstable mother, her pubescent sister and mentally handicapped brother Arnie - impressively played by 18-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio. The film can be rented for a fee via Amazon, iTunes and Google Play or is included in the Sky Go flatrate.

If you are interested in how disability is portrayed in the media, you can also find out more about the recent World Down Syndrome Awareness Day (21 March) on the UN homepage.

On the other hand, if you are more curious about the wrestling aspect of the film, we recommend The Wrestler and Foxcatcher.
In The Wrestler by Darren Aronofsky you can follow the former wrestling star Randy "The Ram", whose life is a wreck. After a heart attack he decides to take his life into his own hands again. The film can be watched via Maxdome subscription or alternatively can be rented with costs via Amazon, iTunes or Sky.
Foxcatcher is about two successful wrestling brothers. Mark, however, has the feeling of being in the shadow of his brother. When he is invited by a millionaire - surprisingly dramatically played by Steve Carell - to come to his wrestling training centre, he accepts the offer. This is the beginning of a friendship that is getting out of hand. The film is included in the following subscriptions: Amazon Prime, Joyn+, Sky Ticket, Sky Go and Maxdome or can be rented for a fee.

If you are simply a fan of Shia LaBeouf, we recommend the Disney film Holes, which is off the Transformers series. And if you want to see Dakota Johnson one more time, check out the Amazon-Studio horror movie Suspiria, with its unmistakable atmospheric sound, which Radiohead front man Thom Yorke contributed to the soundtrack.

25.03.2020