Category Archives: Reviews in English

Blue Highway (2013)

When thinking how to describe this movie one word popped into my head immediately – namely: ‘gentle’ since Blue Highway is truly a gentle, delicate and honest story of two  young people wandering across America in a car.

Kerry & Dillon (Kerry Bishé and Dillon Porter) are a couple and very good friends who travel to visit some places that once were film sets for particular scenes in movies they love.

The travel they undertake is meant to be an unforgettable adventure they would hopefully evoke many years later. However, what the couple planned this escapade would be, turns out a little different. It brings out some untold issues both of them must face and respond to. It is a time of sweetness, joy, excitement but also of some sadness, regret and bitterness that lie under the skin.

Kerry and Dillon realize their dream going on this long journey from North Carolina to Los Angeles but they also realize that their relationship and their lives are much more complicated then they thought at the beginning. What I appreciate in the film most is that Kerry and Dillon do not quarrel much, they avoid drama and maintain a mature, quite collected attitude – they seem to understand and be reconciled with the fact that life is not always what we want it to be. They try to keep this journey memorable because they know another one may never happen.

In Blue Highway the writer and director Kyle Smith was able to create characters who seem ordinary – just a couple next door – but under the surface of it there is depth, sensitivity, humor, and many felicitous and insightful observations.

I had a chance to see this film at the screening during the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland and I am happy I did. The film is pleasant to watch and I wish it was a bit longer. It is quite rare to see a movie about young Americans who love life and carry on gracefully despite being disillusioned. American dream has perished but what’s left is a human being on his or her search for some personal meaning and happiness.

Blue Highway trailer


I Love You to Death (1990)

I love it when TV surprises me nicely as it has done lately. Lawrence Casdan’s dark comedy I Love You To Death made me laugh again – and I was as amused as always when watching this hilarious movie. It’s a simple story based on real events: a wife betrayed and hurting tries to kill her philandering husband, a local charmer who never misses a chance for romance.

Tracey Ullman plays this miserable, quiet wife Rosalie who, right after she shares her worries with her mother – played by amazing Joan Plowright, surprisingly quickly finds strength to punish her carefree husband. The mother, a disillusioned and uncompromising woman arranges a plan to eliminate her unfortunate son-in-law and this is where an avalanche of comic situations kicks off.

The scheme does not go as planned though, three other characters get involved here as well. Two of them, some clumsy and ill-witted drug heads, hired by the ladies as hitmen – cannot really figure out what is happening around them, let alone realizing what the ladies in fact want them to do.

The third character character who joins the ladies in their bold and vindictive endeavours –  is Devo, a young man played by ever memorable River Phoenix. Devo is very much fond of Rosalie and very much eager to release her from the marital bonds.

Humour in this film, in large part, stems from the disparity between the seriousness of the matter and the attitudes the main characters apply. They all seem to enjoy and fear the whole murderous idea at the same time and are lost in their contradicting desires.

One can easily imagine what may happen when such an ‘impossible’ group of seemingly ordinary characters teams up to cooperate. Well developed contrasts between the characters and their intentions create the comical tension in the story; little gestures, the characters’ faces expressions and – what I personally enjoyed most – quite amazing ways of reasoning of the two junkie would-be murderers played by Keanu Reeves and William Hurt.

Specially William Hurt together with his hair gives quite a ravishing performance here. I cannot stop laughing each time he appears on the screen. Tracey Ullman is so delightful and so lost between love and hatred while Kevin Kline and Joan Plowright are truly extraordinary comedians what they prove here beyond any doubt.

I Love You to Death – IMDb film website

I Love You to Death – film trailer

Computer Chess (2013)

So far, the only time I had a chance to watch Computer Chess – Andrew Bujalski’s latest film, was at the New Horizons International Film Festival in Wrocław. This festival is a magical, magnetic event that attracts people from all over the country and Europe once a year in July. Young and old cinema lovers gather in Wrocław to celebrate what’s new and inventive, astonishing and difficult in film, music and arts. It is film though that is most praised, discussed, and anticipated – and then respectively loathed or adored, dismissed or accepted.

Computer Chess was one of those highly anticipated works I chose to watch – and with this one I decided not to read any reviews in advance – I was willing to immerse myself in this cinematic novelty without any prejudices or expectations.

The result was quite astounding. Computer Chess caught me off guard completely. I got myself into believing that I was watching a real period piece of 1980s, a hilarious record of one computer geeks’ competition somewhere in the USA. It did not matter that the director himself was too young to be able to make this movie in the early 1980s. The specific, analog look of the film, with grey and a little grainy picture gave an impression of a real period piece; the actors were actually really good amateurs who seemed to be filmed ‘live’ – this impression was even more intensified by the period haircuts, clothes, interior decorations, equipment and the enormous, heavy computers.

What is more the challenging use of the original Sony analog tube cameras not only brought some sense of reality to the story – it also allowed the director and the cinematographer Matthias Grunsky to create a specific, studio-like atmosphere. A specific climate that we know from the old television programmes of 1970s. This atmosphere, achieved by handling old cameras and the whole set of original accessories, intensified the relations between the characters and made it even more believable. Such attention to detail brought the viewer thirty years back in the most entertaining and convincing manner.

As Matthias Grunsky argues in his blog:   ‘All these artifacts combined add a transcendental character to the image and help express the sometimes unexplainable things that happen between man and computer in our story.’

And this is I think a key to understand the idea behind this film. It is a lightheartedly presented story of a specific group of people and their different concepts, visions and philosophies revolving around technological advancements.

Lost in the story I joyously followed the eccentric characters preoccupied with computer programming; characters who are brilliant with coding and decoding, who engage themselves with a great focus into developing computer language, discovering its abilities and predicting how powerful the machines would become one day – a day when they start to think and reason like humans. The contest is a place where those who invented the computer which can play chess best, win and thus make another leap forward in a barely crawling digital world of programming.

Computer nerds, although technologically smart, they seem also a bit shut down and withdrawn from a real world of human interactions. They exist as if on a different planet away from our daily routines and earthly matters.

Involved into computer related activities, the characters exchange ideas, investigate new, possible solutions for their computers, compete, win and fail – but in the midst of all that they express most awkward abilities to communicate their deeper feelings, or their real self – which is not all so bad – the characters seem happy and safe within their geeky, computer oriented worlds full of intellectual challenges and purpose oriented mathematical reasoning.

The computer contest takes place in a remote hotel where another group of purpose oriented people has their meeting, too. They are some New Age enthusiasts who enjoy rediscovering their humanity by immersing their hands in bread or performing their birth as a group exercise – led by a ceremony master they accompany the computer nerds and together they express two very funny, exaggerated, and somehow extreme approaches to life. They all seem to have difficulties in understanding their own humanity – so they search, either through a weird group of quasi spiritual New Age practitioners, or through the never-ending quest for perfection in the technological inventions that aspire to be a reflection of a human mind.

To sum things up – Computer Chess is an amusing, original and engaging picture. It is also a characteristic piece of work that no one but Andrew Bujalski would have made – an author of a very personal, unique vision and talent to create convincing, a little alienated characters who on many levels represent our lost in technological evolution human race.

Computer Chess movie – official website

Matthias Grunsky’s blog

No Film School article on Matthias Grunsky’s work on Computer Chess (2013)

I’m Still Here (2010)

I have just watched a so called mocumentary by Casey Affleck – a film about a character named Joaquin Phoenix who goes through a serious crisis in his life. I was not able to watch it earlier  – I have had a lot of respect for the real Joaquin Phoenix’s work for years, and I think I needed this whole turmoil around making this film to calm down a bit before I could finally see it for myself.

The story is said to be staged from the beginning to the very end – well, I take it for a true statement. I will never know whether the creators aimed it to be a documentary at first, a documentary that turned out to be a record of Mr. Phoenix’s disastrous loss of identity and an overwhelming breakdown – and after they realized what had happened they decided to do some adjustments and inform the world it was just a staged hoax, a cinematic experiment, nothing that happened for real. OK, whatever it was I’m fine with that.

This film, despite being technically very much amateur (on purpose, I suppose) is interesting on many levels to me. First it shows a ‘backstage’ life of a famous actor who is also a celebrity – a life that one could imagine should be full of glamor, beautiful women, nice, elegant, luxurious parties, etc. – but what we get here is a miserable existence of someone caught in his own loneliness, obsessions, pain, egocentrism, and lack of logical reasoning. Someone who is in desperation and despair. He seems to have it all, yet he has nothing. In my personal view we can see here a mixture of vanity and ambition, of some serious search for meaning,  identity, and relief, and maybe even for love in a spiritual sense. It’s a cinematic warning not to take oneself too seriously.

The main character has been acting for most of his life, but despite the enormous success he achieved, the man feels empty inside – he lost his true self on the way, he longs for something that would feel right – something he can’t even find a name for. He lives his life caged in his own, miserable mind. Wherever he goes he stumbles across invisible barriers of his own emotional limitations, pretenses, addictions, and the inability to see clearly.

This man is a mess who cannot figure out the way out. The character’s aim is to manage a successful transition from the world of acting into the world of rap music – but despite his professional contacts, despite the support he gets from his freaky friends/assistants (it’s actually very surprising he has any) – the man is unable to act in a collected way, he has no reasonable plan, he’s impatient, rude, and has very childish, very demanding attitude towards anyone who surrounds him, and towards life – he seems to have difficulties understanding that the world does not revolves around him.

Watching this mocumentary I had an impression that the only medicine for the main character would be to get himself out of his selfishness – if only he could find someone a lot more miserable than him, if only he engaged himself in helping others finding their ways out – he would be a lot better. But he’s not looking for solutions of such kind. His self obsession and anger kill his spirit and creativity.

What I can understand here very well, though is his need to start anew, this search for his true self, for a new expression that would resonate with his personal vision. Such searches, however are very difficult because the process involves quite often a reconciliation with the past, with whatever brings pain, unforgiveness, etc. It requires strength, integrity and some humbleness.

There’s one more thing the main character has a problem to cope with as well, mainly: being an actor is a profession, not a definition of who you are. He associated himself with what he is doing for a living and this is his mistake. While watching I was asking myself – why wouldn’t he stay in the movies, earn his nice salary, and recognition, and do music as a liberating hobby? Why would he need so desperately to be recognized and successful in his new endeavor – all at once? Was it just a pure pride, an enormous ego?

Regardless of the answer, I am happy this film is said to be just a massive hoax. Watching this madness happening on the screen is quite disturbing (on the other hand the whole idea is so mad that actually turns itself into a comedy at times). I must admit  that Casey Affleck did a very good job here, taking the viewer step by step into the world of a wretched man, where nothing is what it seems.

The hoax is over now. What a relief! I am happy Joaquin Phoenix is back,  doing well, and hopefully will carry on like that for years to come.

I’m Still Here – trailer

Why I Like Adam Sandler Movies – part 2 – 50 First Dates

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are currently filming their third feature movie to be premiered next year – this is why I decided to write a little review on their previous memorable film titled 50 First Dates (2004). It’s been almost ten years since we saw them collaborate, so I’m anxiously awaiting their current project (titled Blended) to come to life.

50 First Dates is one of those films my mum calls: beautiful, and I would say exactly the same. And my mum’s opinion is of a great significance to me – this amazing woman instilled in me the love for films. When my sister and I were kids we used to accompany our parents visiting their friends (who also had kids). Quite often in the mids of play and fun that us kids enjoyed a lot, my mum would enter the room saying it was time to go home – and we didn’t really want to stop playing, we would just whine and beg to stay a bit longer – but suddenly my mum would say: Kids but there’s a lovely film on TV tonight – you’re gonna love it.

It was enough to get us ready to go home within seconds! And this is how I could quite early learn to enjoy movies such as The Magnificent Seven (1960) – (which I loved from the first moment I saw it!), Rio Bravo (1959), or The Birds (1963). I was simply enchanted be the film choices my mum used to make for us.

So when my mum says 50 First Dates is a beautiful movie there is no way I would not agree with her – and of course I absolutely adore this film and still enjoy watching it – the film always makes my day brighter and leaves me more optimistic about life in general. I found online an old Rolling Stone review of 50 First Dates by Peter Travers who describes the film as follows: another farce high on silliness, sentiment, dick jokes, vomit (a walrus blows lunch) and a crazylove for grossouts that is too sincere to be faked – and to be honest all those ‘components’ one finds in this movie – however they are not as bad as Mr. Travers suggests, this story is about a lot more than that – I personally haven’t met a single woman yet, who wouldn’t like this film (and none of them is a grossout).

The film, directed by Peter Segal is funny, light, touching and romantic in a surprisingly wise way – after all what we have here is a beautiful kind of love and at the same time a very difficult kind of love – something many of us dream about but would we really be ready for all the sacrifice that comes with it? In the film the main character, a man who seemingly is not ready for love and commitment and doesn’t seem to even want it – suddenly discovers that soulmates do come along and when they finally appear they bring so much joy and freedom that only a fool would let them pass by.

Henry Roth played by Adam Sandler is not a fool – he knows what he wants and despite the enormous obstacle – a ‘disorder’ – Lucy (played by Drew Barrymore) suffers from after a car accident – Henry doesn’t give up, and with help of Lucy’s father and brother, he becomes greater then life – a truly loving man who treasures what he’s got, and what he has to fight for.

The characters in the movie are the sweetest guys ever. Lucy is a darling and a very strong and witty woman herself, her father is a tough fisherman, her brother a funny, goofy but strangely ambitious guy obsessed with his muscles who loves his sister to bits. The vomiting walrus is actually a real star and a truly clever, cute guy – and together with his animal water friends they form quite an entertaining and lovely company to watch. I also enjoyed Rob Schneider and Lusia Strus a lot! Their performances are crazy brilliant (or crazy silly as Mr. Travers would say), hilarious and totally unforgettable.

There is a lot of magic in this film – everybody seems happy to be there. There’s certain chemistry among the actors and animals, and the story is very warm, engaging and simply human so to speak – there are very few films I enjoy as much as I do 50 First Dates – it’s so fresh and touching despite the appearances and the scene when Henry Roth tries to get Lucy’s attention in the restaurant is so hilarious that I laugh each time I watch it.

So whatever the Rolling Stone reviewer or any other would say – don’t read it – do yourself a favor and watch 50 First Dates – it will make your day, promise.

To be cont.

50 First Dates website

Why I like Adam Sandler movies – part 1

Why do I like Adam Sandler movies? Even the bad ones – with one exception though. Well, as their twitter profile says it’s a Happy Madison family – and even if not all of Adam Sandler movies have been made by his production company – this is where my fandom begins.

For some reason – I like watching the same faces that appear over and over again in Adam Sandler films, it gives me the sense of familiarity with that funny company of often seriously damaged, weird characters who usually struggle to protect their dreams, ideas or newly found wisdom – and always win in the end. I like same motifs appearing in his movies – e.g. Duran Duran, Miami Vice/Don Johnson, hit songs of the 80-ties, especially ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, etc.

OK, I know it sounds a bit too ideal – Adam Sandler’s movies are about much more than that – his characters do have serious issues, the most popular one is anger management and what one can easily see Mr. Sandler does have good laugh at some aspects of the so called Western mentality – brought to extremes sometimes but thus even more funny (or at least this is how I understand e.g. the scene from That’s My Boy when Donny catches the siblings in the act of incest and one of them tries to give an excuse saying: ‘It’s what good looking people do! They have sex with other good looking people, you know’).

Yes, Adam Sandler’s characters are often vulgar, laud and unpredictable, his fellow comrades frequently get themselves stoned, obsessed with women or computer games or are simply unable to cope with the demands of the so called modern society (in general) – however all those apparent losers are in fact individuals who carry their own truth deep inside them. They are usually going through some rough patch and in the end they manage to find the way out, to pull themselves together, forgive, save the world, stay loyal to their family and/or friends,  and win over a beautiful lady, etc.

Yes, there is a lot of bitterness (e.g. some of David Spade’s lines) in Adam Sandler movies as well – after all we (I mean those who actually like his films) who laugh while watching them, realize  that it’s all about the humanity itself – all the foibles, issues, and ‘things we do when no one’s watching’ are being exposed ruthlessly, but still … all stays in the family, so to speak.

A Happy Madison family who used to have a really lovely website (now turned into a facebook and youtube sites) that only intensified the impression of coziness, friendliness and fun (I loved Adam Sandler’s dad’s letters posted there: full of love and parental concern). The impression however was purely an impression though – those Happy Madison guys are truly hardworking individuals, who probably hardly ever have a day off – which unfortunately is noticeable in some of their films, where Adam Sandler looks quite tired and as if he wanted to be somewhere else (e.g. Just Go With It – I do love this film but Mr. Sandler used to put a lot more effort into his acting in many of his other movies) – would it be true then, what Chris Rock once said that many comedians lose their passion for the job, and keep working just to maintain their luxurious lifestyles (because they’ve already achieved everything they ever wanted)? Let’s hope it’s not the case. Anyway, I keep my fingers crossed for the upcoming Grown Ups 2 or actually for that new Drew Barrymore movie.

To be cont.