Spectre by Sam Mendes (2015) – the new James Bond movie

One more time Daniel Craig as 007. Again, Ralph Fiennes as M.
The Blond Bond begins to show grey hair, but one surprisingly strong character turns out to be Q (Ben Whishaw again), who suddenly appears in the field rather than solely remain in the HQ.
What I liked about Spectre – it nicely circles back to the original Casino Royale, to Quantum of Solace and to Skyfall – paying tribute to Craig’s previous Bond movies. It does more than that as – one attentive viewer may note – there are subtle nods to Casablanca, and previous James Bond films.
Amazingly shot, beautifully edited, with breathtaking racing scenes and charming Bond, as ever, with devilishly blue eyes and soft heart, as ever.
Great dialogues too, full of irony, double entendres and class. Slightly more is served on a silver plate, sligthly less is left for interpretation. Good one Mr. Mendes. I sincerely hope this is not the last time for Daniel Craig as Bond.

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Somersault by Cate Shortland (2004)

Rarely does it happen that I see such a beautiful film. Apparently, it is easier to find such gem if we drift away – off the beaten track of European and American films. “Somersault” is an Australian feature made in 2004. As its poster boasts, it was part of the official selection of both Cannes and Toronto festivals back in 2004.

The strongest aspect of this film is coldness in watching a nice looking girl collapse and then gather together. In emotions, in feelings, in life.

Great watch.

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“Irrational Man” by Woody Allen (2015)

Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey.
Sadly repetitive. There was (at least) one Woody Allen film exploring a similar theme.
Student falls for a professor, professor engages in an affair with the student and with a colleague’s wife (finally Parker Posey in visible supporting role). He commits a perfect crime, and pays the price.

Great soundtrack. Also, Joaquin Phoenix in an excellent role. Now I’m curious about his next choice. I will definitely want to watch it.

However, the last Woody Allen film that I honestly enjoyed was “Midnight in Paris”. This is one to skip.

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“Amy” by Asif Kapadia (2015)

Documentaries are my favourite genre. And documentaries related to music personae in particular.

Kapadia got access to private archives of Amy Winehouse’s family and friends. Thanks to that, we received an in depth presentation of who Amy Winehouse was prior to releasing her hit album Back to Black which turned her life upside down.

In one of the first scenes Amy sings a simple “Happy Birthday” to her friend filming her. She was 14 at the time and her voice already gave incredible chills to my spine.
Her voice was great, she was a hard working musician throughout her career, however, unfortunately, she was prone to influences, which led her to drugs and alcohol addictions.
From the film, we find out through the words of none other but Tony Bennett himself, that Amy Winehouse was a great jazz vocalist.

The film is a bit too long, also I was missing the hard data of numbers – e.g. it is not stated when she was born, and how old she was when she passed. The general knowledge is that she joined the infamous 27 Club. At the age of 27 she died of alcohol poisoning. And that was the age that many other great artists passed away. Such as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Kobain…

Great film telling the story of a tragic and incredibly sensitive artist – Amy Winehouse. A great watch.

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Mr. Nobody by Jaco Van Dermal (2010)

One more film exploiting the concept of multiple scenarios in one’s life. Perhaps Kieślowski’s “Przypadek” (Blind Chance) was the first (and the best), but the idea keeps appearing and re-appearing in diverse versions in the cinema. Perhaps because everyone wonders from time to time – what if – what if I did go left instead of right, what if I did go out with that person, what if I did not say some things to someone I just met, what if I was born in a different place, in a different country, what if… Everyone knows these sort of doubts that almost always present with us. Because we are people and we have so many choices in our lives that sometimes too many things depend on one important or seemingly unimportant decision.

This film could also be read from a different angle – perhaps the versions of life of the main character are not different scenarios of ‘what if’, but perhaps he has lived all of them in all of his incarnations. From this perspective, it is somehow similar to “Cloud Atlas”.

Probably the most important message of “Mr. Nobody” is that until you make a decision, everything is possible – like the famous case of Schroedinger’s Cat. Until you open the box, the cat may be dead and alive at the same time. Everything is possible until you make it happen one way or another.

A message we could probably be sending to our teenagers – to people who desperately need to know how to learn to not only make good decisions, but learn to make decisions. Decisions, that sometimes will not be good, sometimes will be the worst decisions of their lives, but they need to be made. Because life is about making decisions. Not pending on making them.

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Take Me to the River by Martin Shore (2014)

This thing happened to me for the very first time.
Sitting at the cinema during the screening of this film, the 4th wall has been fully broken for me.

Given this is a documentary set mainly in a musical studio, and given I am not sure what was the initial idea behind this – I may have fallen into a mighty musical trap. I watched people rehearse, sing, write music, transpose keys, talk and have fun. And I felt as if I were present inside the studio with them. I clapped, I murmured the rhythm and the songs, I cheered the artists.

Never mind the people in the audience, never mind them thinking I was crazy. I am. A sucker for blues, a sucker for jazz, a sucker for good notes and rhythm.

Yes, this is what happened to me during the screening of this film.

So, I guess, this should serve as a recommendation. Best film I have seen in a very very very long time.

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Cloud Atlas by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski (2012)

Uncomfortable message, terrible makeup. Each of the main characters played by Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and others such as e.g. Ben Whishaw (the youngest in the history of James Bond films to play Q). The trick is that they are different people, but in essence they are the same. The message is that no matter what you do in your (current) life, you are predisposed by your previous lives. In other words, you get the same choices again and again. Not only within your life, but within your lives.

Annoyingly, it is not defined as to how many lives one may get. If there is an end to this.

Given the plots span for approx. 4 centuries, the personae played by the same actors somehow grow into their roles over time. So they are oldest at the very end in the far end future. Maybe this is a shortcut, maybe a simplification to our understanding given how we perceive the linearity of time.

Personally I liked the 1970’s episode. Funnily enough all the stories are played at the same time indicating that the same choices cross over time and history. It is a bit confusing and in the end, the difference in close future (21st century) and further future (22nd century) is that one reminds us of Blade Runner, and the other of Cast Away.

So I guess, not a super successful or original voice in the cinema. And the concept? Well… uncomfortable, perhaps contradictory with common Western beliefs. It will be hard to find out for oneself.

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American Sniper by Clint Eastwood (2014)

One of the Oscar contenders for 2015, “American Sniper” tells a true story of Chris Kyle, who was known as Legend among his peers.
He’s a soldier, he’s a Navy SEAL, he’s a sniper. Bradley Cooper paired with Clint Eastwood for an exceptionally well directed and played drama.
The dialogues are well written and credible, the setting looks realistic. Thanks to the dialogues, the script does not exclude the audiences who have little knowledge of US Military structure, or the social structure. You didn’t know who rednecks are? Well, they’re not Texans. You can learn the difference – as Texans ride horses on rodeos, therefore are not rednecks.
This is solid cinema.
It is perhaps more about PTSD rather than combat, but of course there is a lot of gunfire and gunpoint dilemmas.
Bradley Cooper proves one more time to be a mature actor. He is nominated for the Oscar with this role. We’ll find out soon enough.

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“Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu” (aka Serial (Bad) Weddings) by Philippe de Chauveron (2014)

It’s a French comedy. Not entirely successful but witty and funny at times.
The film aims at the almost impossible – taming the French middle-class viewpoint at ethnicity and the changing face and reality of contemporary France. Take immigration in 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation. Are they French or are they not? Different religious backgrounds, almost no difference in accents. Four middle-class French daughters marry for love. Each maintains successful relationships, bears children, implements tolerance on a daily basis.
It’s the 4 daughters’ father who has an issue with this reality. Perhaps it is in a way observant to introduce the ‘other side’. To introduce a black father who is against his son marrying into a white family. What is failed here is that no actual potential problems are presented. Perhaps because France is one of the few countries in Europe where multiculturalism has actually been in place for several decades. Mixed race children are all brought up to the same set of values like family, tolerance, fusion (especially in the kitchen) and patriotism. All the immigrant husbands can sing la Marseillaise in full voice with pride. They all observe Christmas and attend the midnight mass on Christmas Eve to be with the family. Even though, Jesus was “only a prophet” to both David and Rachid (Jewish and Muslim).
All served in a light French way can leave some envious of such perfectly integrated society that despite minor cracks, manages to thrive among other European countries struggling with the growing size of immigrants of diverse backgrounds. Perhaps the lesson is this: learn from the French.

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Jack Strong by Wladyslaw Pasikowski (2014)

Ryszard Kuklinski could be perceived as a national hero or as a traitor. This ambiguity is only mentioned and in Pasikowski’s film, Kuklinski is presented rather as a positive character.
The story told depicts hard moral and ethical dilemmas of one man who became an ally to the US during the 1970’s and 1980’s opposing to the Soviet ruling inside communist Poland.
Being a higly regarded official of the Polish army, he has access to top secret documentation which at one point hints at the Soviets aiming at the breakout of World War III via a realistically planned invasion on Poland. It is at that point that he decides to get in touch with the American embassy to help his country he knows to be gravely endangered.
It is a fascinating story and being based on true events, gives the thrills of serious historical issues that could have ended in a number of ways. But luckily (for Poland and perhaps the whole contemporary world) it ended up just fine. Supposedly because and thanks to the Seagull operation with Jack Strong as the source. 1989 saw the end of the Cold War and in 1997 Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO.

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