The Butler (2013)

The Butler
Director: Lee Daniels
Writer: Danny Strong
Based on: Wil Haygood’s article
Cast: Forest WhitakerOprah WinfreyDavid Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Nelsan Ellis

Plot:
Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) grew up on a cotton farm where he officially wasn’t a slave anymore but he practically was. When he was old enough, he left there and after a period of hardship was lucky enough to find employment. Bit by bit he works his way up to becoming a butler and finally gets recruited into the White House. But racism is still a major issue.

The Butler has a great cast and the time passes rather quickly when you watch it, but it’s a manipulative film (which I was prepared for and which isn’t generally bad) that is so sweet that it leaves you in desperate need of insulin to manage it. And that was just too much.

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Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is the sequel to Night at the Museum. It’s directed by Shawn Levy and stars Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams and Ricky Gervais.

Plot:
Night Guard Larry (Ben Stiller) has given up his job at the museum an is now successfully selling various household inventions via TV shopping channels. He hardly ever has time to visit his friends at the museum any more. But when he finally does, he finds out that most of the exhibits are supposed to go into permanent storage in the Smithsonian – without the life giving tablet. But things don’t go as planned and Larry finds himself in the middle of the Smithsonian with millions of exhibits come to life and fighting an evil pharaoh [Hank Azaria] for the tablet and the lives of his friends.

The movie is much like the first one – lighthearted fun for the whole family. Though the plot and the villain are slightly ridiculous, they’re more of an excuse to have fun with the various pieces of art in the Smithsonian anyway. And boy, did they ever! The paintings and the sculptures coming to life were brilliant. The star-studded cast was as well, especially Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan had me laughing till I cried.

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Jakob der Lügner (Jacob the Liar) – Jurek Becker

Jacob the Liar by Jurek Becker is a book you might have heard of, probably because of the movie version starring Robin Williams [it’s actually the second adaptation, the first was a German movie in the 70s].

The plot is quickly summarised: A ghetto in Poland during World War II (probably meant to be Lodz), near the end of the war. Jakob is one of the inabitants. One evening, he hears in a radio transmission that the Russians are around 500 km from their ghetto. He passes on the news, but has to pretend that he secretely owns a radio to be believed. As these things usually do, they get out of hand and Jakob has to start to lie and make up news so the people won’t lose hope.

I didn’t like the writing very much. I found Becker’s style tiring and tedious.
And I didn’t really like Jakob, although he definitely had good sides. But mostly, he was grumpy, moody and had a bad temper.

Unfortunately, this lessened the impact of this otherwise very powerful story. I somehow couldn’t access Jakob and both endings (yes, there are two) left me unsatisfied. [The Hollywood ending (yeah, they created a third one) would be the happiest version, but also the one most out of tune with the rest of the story. (Go figure.)]

So, summarising: good story badly told.

Chick Flick #61545132

I’ve been kind of in a chick flick mood for these past weeks, therefore you’ll get the review of yet another one – August Rush. (For my defense, I managed to squeeze in Harsh Times as well, which was very good, very disturbing and had a very good cast – Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez aka the fighting midget from Planet Terror at their best.) 

August Rush was really, really very nice. The music was wonderful, especially the parts where Lyla’s (Keri Russell) cello playing overlapped with Louis’ (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) rock-ish music. I knew Meyers could sing ever since Velvet Goldmine – which is also a very good movie, so go and see it if you haven’t already – but this was a nice reminder. I don’t know if Keri Russell played the cello herself, so no comment on that. Freddie Highmore is cute as always, I can’t believe he’s going to be sixteen in Febuary…
Anyway, back to the topic. The plot was predictable and not really innovative, but who cares when it’s so nice to watch it anyway. The good guys except for the main characters were all black, a must-have in modern, PC films, which doesn’t bother me, just an observation. Robin Williams brought us one of his best performances ever (why, oh why did he do License to Wed? And why, oh why did I watch it?), and seemed to have fun doing it.
So, altogether it was mindless, it was good entertainment but as romantic films go there are better out there.