Posts tagged “Children

Four Minutes / Unqualified Parents


Four Minutes  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Following on from the success of The Lives of Others and The Counterfeiters, the award winning “Four Minutes” sees wrongfully imprisoned piano prodigy Jenny, a Molotov cocktail of suppressed emotions and uncontrollable rage, locked in a constant battle with those around her.  Together with Traude, a professional musician who wants to expose Jenny’s talents at a national competition, the pair develop a volatile teacher-pupil relationship.  As the duo plan their intent to make it to the finals, it soon becomes apparent that, once there, Jenny will have only four minutes to prove herself, and no guarantee of freedom afterwards.  Starring multiple award winner Hannah Herzsprung (“The Reader”, “The Baader-Meinhof Complex”), “Four Minutes” is a cinema tour de force that combines music, gritty prison drama and powerful performances to winning effect.

2006  –  Certificate: 15  –  German Film  –  Rating Details: Strong violence and very strong language.  10 out of 10.

To do most things that people consider important in life, you have to study and then possibly pass some sort of test, exam or interview.  In other cases you need to read the instructions or practice, but in the end you’re required to be able to demonstrate a degree of competency before you’re trusted by anyone to do it ‘for real’.  Yet for some reason, with one of the most important and challenging things, we expect everyone to just get on with it without demonstrating the slightest level of ability.  That’s so stupid.  Where’s the logic in that?  It’s enough to make Mr. Spock freak out.  I’ve mentioned it before, but my journey to work involves walking almost past an infant school, at least close enough for me to run into lots of parents taking their kids there.  I don’t expect young kids to ever do anything remotely sensible; in fact it’s in their job description.  They live in a world that isn’t quite in phase with grow-ups. However, if fate has put you in change of a young person, you really ought to be trained how to do this important job, as most people clearly don’t have a clue.  In fact those that do know are generally too old to have any, which in my opinion is a really bad design error.  I’m generally a very tolerant person; yes, really.  But one thing that’s been testing me to my limits recently is the almost total inability of parents to wait at traffic lights and not block the entire pavement with hyperactive kids, bags, pushchairs, dogs and other non-essential stuff.  Hell, it’s only a short walk to the local school, not a manned mission to Mars.  Somehow, they think having control of a young person entitles them to inconvenience the rest of the universe, as if this is some sort of reward for proving their immense virility or fertility.  Seriously dudes, we’ve managed to reproduce adequately enough to keep ourselves going since life first evolved on Earth; it’s really not that difficult and it doesn’t reflect on anyone’s worth.  What does take skill and deserves admiration is dealing with the consequences, which many clearly fail at on an epic scale. I’m a Pavement Warrior and denying me my right of access is a direct challenge to my entire belief structure.  I’m not keen on making kids orphans, but sometimes, someone needs to make a stand.  Just today I narrowly avoided a serious incident on an especially narrow bit of pavement, when two young boys came flying out of a terrace house; the sort that has a front garden about 1m deep.  A guy coming down ‘The Mountain’ (as I call this particularly steep section of my route to work) had to take evasive action to avoid running into them and nearly swerved into me as a result.  Seriously, I was lucky to get out of that in one piece.  Then again, what do I know?  It was only very recently that I found out that you can’t just take the batteries out of them at night when you go to bed.  And now something a whole lot better…

This is a totally awesome movie.  One of the best 50 films ever made.  It’s German, so unsurprisingly it’s not a comedy.  (I guess saying that makes me a racist, unlike Nigel Farage because he’s got a German wife.)  However, it is a kick-ass drama and totally absorbing.  Slow, dark and smouldering, it just blew me away.  I have a soft spot for movies about mavericks, rebels and people who don’t play the game properly.  In particular the ones that do it for no other reason than to piss the world off and who’re willing to take themselves down along with everyone else rather than change.  (I like to think that I’m a bit like that, except in reality I’m probably the world’s biggest ‘yes man’ and enjoy nothing better than asking “how high?” when someone tells me to jump.)  Cutting off your whole head to spite your face.  Our hero Jenny isn’t quite as nihilistic as that, but she comes close.  The Four Minutes of the title refers to a scene near the end of the movie.  One of the best bits of cinema ever; you could never play it loud enough.  It’s not a perfect film for a range of minor but noticeable reasons, but I’m willing to overlook it small faults and consider the bigger picture.  An essential watch.

This is a movie about someone who plays the piano and as such without a suitable soundtrack to support the story, it would fail miserably.  Fortunately it’s a great mixture of original and (mainly) classical, (mainly) German composed music.  There’s an interesting article on the official website about how hard it was to find a composer for the original music used.

I think this trailer lightens the mood of the film slightly and misrepresents the relationship between the two main characters, so it’s a bit disappointing.  It really doesn’t portray the power or mood of the film well.

Movie Weather Forecast.  Cloudy and cool.  Stay indoors is my advice.

Recommended for pianists, lesbians, nurses, prison wardens, Nazis, abusive parents and rebels.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  The four minutes that give this film its title are as badass as it comes.  The closest you can get to sticking two fingers up to the world without saying a word; a great bit of punk and not a guitar in sight.

I wrote about this film here in 2010.  This is what I had to say then.

Four Minutes at IMDB (7.6 / 10)
Four Minutes at Wikipedia
Official Website
Four Minutes Trailer at YouTube

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The Waiting Room / Happy Shopper Brown Sauce


The Waiting Room  -  Front DVD Cover (UK Release)“The Waiting Room” is the beautiful, feature debut of Academy-Award nominated writer/director Roger Golby.  The sterling cast give ‘top-notch performances’ in their portrayal of two strangers – Anna (Anne-Marie Duff) and Stephen (Ralf Little) – who are brought together by chance as they sit together in a deserted waiting room.  Here they make a brief but powerful connection, forgetting their individual lives for an isolated moment in time.  As Stephen and Anna’s lives move onwards, they find themselves thinking more and more of the stranger they met in the waiting room – and what would happen should they meet again.  This highly acclaimed and deeply moving film presents a fresh, edgy and totally romantic view of contemporary life and love in London.

2008  –  Certificate: 15  –  British Film
Rating Details: One strong sex scene and strong language
8.5 out of 10

On my way home from work two days ago I did a bit of food shopping.  A sudden impulse buy was a bottle of brown sauce.  I can’t remember the last time I bought any, but it must have been years ago.  If I’d had any sense I’d have bought some decent stuff, like HP.  Instead, I bought some cheap, Happy Shopper Brown Sauce.  It tasted sort of okay, but it contains about a tonne of salt per gram.  (No, I don’t know how that’s possible either; I guess it’s this sort of ‘new physics’ that makes the experiments being done with the Large Hadron Collider so exciting.)  Using it gave me a sore throat and I could feel my arteries bulging as if they were about to explode, thanks to my suddenly elevated blood pressure.  All in all it’s pretty toxic stuff.  I can only imagine that a large-scale deployment of Happy Shopper Brown Sauce would probably cross someone’s “red line” somewhere or other…  I’m glad I only have the one bottle.  I’ve not checked frame by frame, but I’m not aware that this film contains any brown  sauce, or  sauce of any colour for that matter.  If anyone spots any do let me know.

I can’t understand why this film isn’t better known.  It’s set in Wandsworth, south London and features a lot of Southern Trains suburban services in it; I mean seriously, how much more cool and fashionable could it possibly get?  It’s a story that revolves around three couples, their relationships and a chance meeting between two people in a waiting room at Wandsworth Common Station.  This is a gentle but hugely touching film about ordinary people.  Like many character-driven stories, it just sort of jumps into a period in their lives and then after a while it leaves them again, giving us a glimpse into their thoughts, feeling and actions.  It has a number of scenes that provide the sort of emotional impact that all good films should and characters, though flawed, it’s still easy to sympathise with.  Funny in places and intensely sad in others, at times it felt a bit too close to home for my linking, which is partly why it’s such a brilliant movie.

The soundtrack is generally restrained and unmemorable, but quietly gets on with business of extending the impact of the scenes it’s used in.  A job well done.

Recommended for anyone who accepts that their life is as good as it’s ever going to get.

No cat, chainsaws or decapitation.

Top badass moment?  Stephen, one of the two main characters, works in a nursing home.  When my mum was in a nursing home all the care staff there seemed too overworked to really spend much time with the residents.  Perhaps that’s the reality of it, but if any of them did ever have a bit of time on their hands, I’d have wanted them to be like Stephen.

The Waiting Room at IMDB (6.3 / 10)


School of Rock: 3.5 Stars


School of Rock  -  Front DVD CoverI went to two really great gigs this weekend, the New Town Kings at the London Camden Barfly and Random Hand at the London Hackney Trashbar.  Each had really good support bands too.  The Barfly is in an upstairs room over a pub and the Trashbar in three adjoined cellars below an organic food store.  The Barfly is a well established venue, whilst the Trashbar only opened in March.  It took me six trains to get to and from home to the Barfly and four trains and two busses to get to the Trashbar and back; only London can manage to have a traffic jam for busses to get caught up in at midnight!  The Barfly sort of has some sort of air conditioning so it was only hot, the Trashbar has zero anything and a really low ceiling, so it was about 1000 degrees in it; in fact the ceiling is so low that two of the bands’ singers had to stand on the floor in front of the little stage, as they were too tall to stand upright on it.  Well anyway, both gigs were great and I was suitably knackered at the end of  them.  I felt sick on the way back from the NTK one on the Tube (too dehydrated) and (a first for me) felt sick on the way to the Random Hand one, (before realising I’d hardly eaten or drunk anything all day so was again dehydrated and probably suffering some sort of energy crisis as well).  Talking of gigs and music (and it makes a change to actually be able to draw a sensible link between the crap I’ve written in this paragraph and that in the next)….

2003  –  Certificate: PG  –  USA
Rating Details: Mild language and sex references

I can’t decide if I want to really really like this movie or really really  (which makes it a lot more realistic), the kids in it are generally pretty cool and okay it’s quite funny in places too.  Against it are the facts that the music featured in it is shit, (well, mostly anyway, except the Clash and Ramones songs, and I guess Immigrant Song is okay too if you really have to like that sort of thing), the school is also shit and has zero child protection in place, the end is way too “Hollywood” and Jack Black’s character is at times just a little bit too creepy.  I really want to like Jack Black, simply because he doesn’t look like George Clooney or Johnny Depp, but he makes it so, so difficult in his films at times.  (It’s the eyebrows I think, he moves then about way too much for me; they certainly take me outside my comfort zone.) In the end I’ve decided it’s an okay movie.

Recommended for people who like the sort of rock music that punk should really have finished off when it had the chance; you will either like hearing it, or get annoyed at hearing your favourite songs mangled by a load of kids and associated grown-ups; a good thing too if you take it that seriously.

No cats and no decapitations.

Top badass moment?  It has to be Jack Black’s “touch the kids” line.  It’s so way out of the park compared with the rest of the very safe script that you end up thinking, “wtf, did he really just say that”?  The delayed reaction of all the parents present in the scene (who are obviously busy thinking over what he’d just said too) makes it the best badass line in the film.

School of Rock at IMDB (7.1)


Who Can Kill a Child?: 3.0 Stars


Who Can Kill a Child? - DVD Front CoverI’ve never been to Spain but I’ve eaten a lot of oranges grown there, so I think I know the country and its people pretty well.  So why not come with me now (in a virtual way I mean), to the charming Spanish island of Almanzora, a four-hour boat trip off the south coast?  With a population of just a few hundred, this delightful ‘hidden treasure’ far from the main tourist attractions of the area, boasts a wonderfully warm, quiet and tranquil environment, traditional Mediterranean housing, an idyllic harbour and welcoming, friendly locals.  In fact, it’s the ideal place to take a holiday with your heavily pregnant wife, if you’re an English Professor of Biology with a 70s porn-star moustache, horrendous denim flares and ‘Steve Wright in the Afternoon’ sunglasses.  Unfortunately, all the local kids are homicidal murderers with an unexplained need to kill all adults. Still, nowhere’s perfect.  After all my less than positive comments about mid 70s films and music yesterday, what do I go and do today?  That’s right, I watch another.  However, this horror has quite a different feel to it.  This time, most of the action (and to be perfectly honest there’s a lot of sitting around going on much of the time), takes place during the day in bright sunshine.  It’s also very quiet.  In fact when the phone in the cafe rang it really didn’t do my head any good at all, such was the shrill, mono sound that assaulted my ears; in cider terms, the sound is very much at the farm scrumpy end of the scale, (i.e. virtually undrinkable).  Most of the rest of the noise comes from Evelyn (the wife), who’s whining and moaning did start to get on my nerves a bit.  I know she was expecting and all that, but still.  Perhaps they should have taken a holiday in the UK instead, where it’s not so hot?  Still, I can forgive any character who’s played by someone who’s been in a film adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel.  Thomas Hardy rocks!

1976  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  Spain

I watched the full, uncut version of this movie, which has only quite recently become available.  It’s not that gory or anything, but I guess the idea of loads of kids and adults going around killing each other was a bit of a non-starter in the 70s.  In fact the first ten minutes of so features archive-footage from various wars, with a narrative that explains how many children were killed in these conflicts, whilst we watch film-clips of dead and dying kids.  This is way more horrific than anything than comes up in the movie itself, so it dilutes the effect of what follows afterwards a bit.  I guess the director/writer was trying to make a point.  The whole premises of the film is based around the fact that it really wouldn’t be very easy for a normal adult to kill a child and this works surprisingly well as a plot device.  It made me wonder why it’s not been used more often, but perhaps it’s still something that too many people wouldn’t be comfortable with?  The kids do smile a lot, which is disconcertingly creepy.  There aren’t a lot of laughs to be had, that’s certain, but for 1976 it’s got its good points.

Recommended for biology teachers.

No cats and no decapitations, (although you do get the feeling there was an off-screen one of the latter).

To badass moment? Tom (the husband) didn’t make for a very good hero; realistic maybe but not very Hollywood-hero like.  Still, to give him his due, he does do his best under quite trying circumstances; driving fast(ish), trying to plan an escape, searching for survivors, protecting his wife, running around a lot, using a gun, fighting the bad guys.  (A flared trousers wearing ‘all-action hero’?  I think not.)  Trying to be the hero (when clearly you’re not) is badass.