• Babel
    • Languages are not universal. If you don't speak the language of the people around you, small problems can become big problems fast. This movie shows three such episodes that are loosely connected. It's notable how people from developed countries seek rich-world solutions, while people in developing countries take quite different approaches. The bottom line is that there aren't just language differences, but cultural differences as well, even within a single country. Those are the borders we must strive not to defend, but to understand and to overcome.

  • Cruel Intentions
    • This is the Brat Pack at its most scheming, deceiving, lying best. Friends and enemies are sacrificed or bedded as a moments desire demands. While the acting is not really memorable, the plot is, and maybe it's appropriate that all the supposed high school students don't come off as too fine actors. This is dark and explicit entertainment, not uplifting at all, and because of that all the more worth watching.

  • Knockaround Guys
    • The sons and nephews of some Mafia dons try to get into the big time game, helping their elders run the business. But it's not as easy or simple as it looks, and complications that eventually lead to disaster ensue. Dennis Hopper and John Malkovich don't get much screen time, although they -as ever- make good bad guys; it's a shame that they have to co-star with Vin Diesel of all people. But not even they can rescue a story that is as light as in a summer flick.

  • Little Miss Sunshine
    • Part family comedy, part family tragedy, part road movie, this one puts a dysfunctional family through the motions to help the daughter compete in a beauty contest. As events unfold, more downs than ups occur, but some member always eggs the rest of the family on, and in the end not everything is resolved to the satisfaction of everybody, but they have grown closer and learn that you can love completely without understanding completely. The movie manages to avoid becoming sappy, and includes some hilarious scenes that just for the comedy alone makes it worthwhile to watch.

  • Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)
    • A story of the Stasi, the East German domestic intelligence service, conducting an operation on a writer and his actress girlfriend, this movie shows what it does to both the observer and the observed. It's a story of people trying to do good in bad times, and still being able to look straight into a mirror. While circumstances cause harm to both sides, eventually the system is destroyed and the tables are turned, for all the good that does to either side. Good story, good writing, good acting - this one's a winner.

  • Absolute Power
    • A well acted thriller about a master thief who gets to witness a murder by the President of the USA, and must rush to deliver the guilty to prove his innocence while being hunted by various hitmen. Clint Eastwood plays a classy thief, while Gene Hackman is a quite evil and duplicitous President. The movie provides cinematic proof that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and is a quite enjoyable thriller to boot.

  • Borat
    • This is a hilarious comedy. It contains a scene that afterwards you wish you hadn't seen, but that doesn't detract from the overall achievement. The fact that most of it is set in the USA doesn't matter much - people like the ones depicted could have been found for similar scenes in other countries as well. Too much time is given for scenes just between Cohen and his producer, but they keep the flow of the movie and set up the other scenes, so they're acceptable. Go watch it for good entertainment, and even though there is societal commentary, it's not about the USA in particular - it's about all of us.

  • GoodFellas
    • Robert de Niro and company make a Mafia living over 30 years of ups and downs. It feels like The Godfather and Once Upon A Time In America compressed into one movie. As the heists get bigger, the fallout gets bloodier, and in the end all friendship is gone. I enjoyed watching a story well told and acted.

  • K-PAX
    • Situated somewhere between Kevin Spacey's mind games in Seven and Jack Nicholson's antics in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, this comedy/detective story/medical case/alien visit to earth is a weird mix, and I don't know what to make of it. Reading Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat would provide much more insight into the human mind than seeing this movie.

  • Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen
    • This documentary about the soccer world cup 2006 follows the German team through preparation and the actual tournament all the way to their winning 3rd place. Scenes from the field are rare (mostly goals and near misses), which is just as well because we've all seen the matches. Many interviews with players and coaches and shots of pep talks in the locker room make for good entertainment and provide insight into the coaches methods and the players minds.

  • Mean Streets
    • A young Robert de Niro tries to make it as a small-time crook, while young Harvey Keitel tries his best to keep him from getting ever deeper into it. There are surprisingly religious undertones in this Martin Scorsese movie from 1973 about a group of friends who, despite doing wrong, try in different ways to do right. And I wonder how many folks really did wear those nice suits that Harvey Keitel shows off, in Little Italy in the Seventies.

  • Ein Freund von mir
    • What is friendship? Can it blossom between a driver at a car rental agency and a straight-laced employee of an insurance company who is meant to check out the rental agency for risk? Apparently it can, although not without ups and downs, some of them involving the drivers girlfriend. There are more slow scenes than fit the overall flow of the film, even though Jürgen Vogel as the driver is at his most obnoxious best to keep it from stalling. But overall, the balance is kept, as befits any friendship that is likely to have its high points and low points. Worth seeing, if not exactly Oscar material.

  • The Life Of David Gale
    • Billed as a thriller, this movie puts Kate Winslet in a race against time to save the life of convicted murderer Kevin Spacey on death row. She doesn't succeed, but it turns out that it doesn't matter as much as she thought it would. The acting is flat, with only Kevin Spacey getting a chance to display depth in his character, and the action parts are tame, so the movie doesn't make a lasting impression.

  • Neil Young - Heart Of Gold
    • Being a concert movie, this film captures the world premiere of the Neil Young album Prairie Wind at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. After brief introductions of the (numerous) musicians, a number of new songs are performed as well as some well-known oldies. This is the Young of Harvest and Harvest Moon, not the one Jim Jarmusch captured in Year Of The Horse. Some of the arrangements feature so many instruments and singers that one is reminded of Phil Spector's walls of sound. But it's unmistakably the Neil Young I've come to like over the years.

  • Playtime
    • One of the few Jacques Tati movies, Playtime picks up the society criticism of Mon Oncle, and takes it to another level. It also features Monsieur Hulot, but he doesn't get as much screen time, which may be part of the reason why the film flopped commercially, if not critically. But it's delightful entertainment, with many parallel plot strands happening, and much to discover by an observant viewer.

  • Liegen Lernen
    • Made a few years before Broken Flowers, this movie also deals with the memories of girlfriends past, and the impact each of them had on a man who's at a crossroads in his current relationship. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't come close to the novel it's based on, leaving out most of his journey revisiting former girlfriends, which makes what remains a bit pointless. Some fine performances thus do not amount to much, and the advice must be: read Frank Goosen's novel, and for a movie, go see Broken Flowers.

  • Im Schwitzkasten
    • A group of people from different walks of life meet regularly in a sauna to enjoy a getaway from urban life. While the proprietors struggle financially to keep the place going, various personal and business interactions ensue. The film is a hilarious comedy, and has cast actors in roles that fit them perfectly, and of which they make the most - it's excellent entertainment.

  • Knallhart
    • Living in the capital has the benefit that plenty of movies come out that are set in your home town, and some even purport to depict life as it is right here. This one is about the Neukölln neighbourhood of Berlin, a social flashpoint. Having lived in a well-to-do part of town, a schoolboy moves there with his mother, and gets exposed to youth gangs, drug dealers, a string of his mothers boyfriends, and other complications of adolescence. Some say the movie is rougher than real life, some claim the opposite, but the fact is that it was under consideration for being banned for under-16 year olds, which -given that the main character is all of 15- says something about the casual violence in it. (For reference, just today teachers of a Neukölln school called in authorities because they could neither keep order in the general climate of violence at the school, nor conduct any kind of orderly education.)

  • Stadtgespräch
    • The story of a radio host trying to balance dispensing romantic advice over the air with finding Mr Right herself. The movie -more than 10 years old- brings together a group of actors that have become much better known since then, and gives them a chance to really act. Even though the story is a bit contrived and sappy in places, it takes some unexpected and entertaining turns, making the result quite enjoyable.

  • Dark Star
    • A crew of spacemen cruises far from earth to blow up planets on unstable trajectories, when a few things go wrong, and a bomb starts to think on its own. John Carpenters first movie from 1974 is a very entertaining spoof of all science-fiction movies, like Star Wars, 2001 and Aliens, some of which hadn't even been conceived at the time.

  • Elementarteilchen
    • Two half brothers go through life looking for fulfillment, but are left hampered by their upbringing in complicated family circumstances. Although there are some comedic moments, generally the plot progresses from melancholic to depressing. A lineup of fine actors goes largely wasted, never getting a real chance to display depth in their characters.

  • Sommer vorm Balkon
    • The story of two women friends and neighbors, and what happens with them/to them over the course of a summer. Turns out it's quite a bit, with fewer ups than downs it seems, but they are determined to make life work out for them. It's hilarious at times - the writer really took note of how people talk and act, and here in Berlin you can absolutely meet such folks. And the bartender from next corner knows a lot about what's going on that you should know too, but don't.

  • Kingdom Of Heaven
    • A medieval spectacular with intriguing characters (not necessarily Orlando Bloom's hero, though). It's hard to say how much poetic license has been taken with history, but saving a people by surrendering their city to an honorable opponent should be an easy decision today. But circumstances have become even more complicated in the last thousand years, and Jerusalem still has not found peace.

  • Match Point
    • Game, Set and Match for Woody Allen for writing and directing, Scarlett Johansson for acting, and character Chris Wilton for reaching for his goals in the best The Talented Mr Ripley manner. It's nice to see London as the backdrop for upper-class crimes and misdemeanors for a change; I already knew that kind of thing happens in New York, and was afraid that London only hosts romantic comedy - no more! An all-around excellent movie.


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