Want to Read A Good Movie?
Well, Your Local GCCC Branch is the Place to Find One! So you’ve been wandering the fiction aisles at your local branch, even though there’s tens of thousands of books on the shelves you just can’t find anything that after reading the blurb yells out, “Read me, read me now!” Don’t worry, I know that feeling, you are not alone. Sometimes I find armfuls of interesting books, sometimes none. Well let me ask the question. Have you considered reading a good movie? I don’t mean watch a movie, although the library has thousands of great (and yes the odd average one too) titles from Hollywood, Australian, Canadian, UK, Irish and New Zealand studios to choose from. These include latest releases if you want to sit back with a bowl of popcorn, put the feet up and enjoy. Hundreds of TV series as well. But this is Bookcoasters you say, I’m here to find something to read, I need to engage my mind! Well you can do that. What I’m talking about are those movies, often picked up because the title or cover image looked interesting, and then put back as they list another language on the back cover. Don’t be put off by the fact they are non English language movies though. There’s some great stuff in our collection. In fact a lot of the library’s top borrowed authors have books that Hollywood has ignored, but somewhere in Europe, Asia or another part of the world, someone who read the book said, hey that would make a good movie, or whatever the translation is in their own language. Harlan Coben and Donald E Westlake, even Rene Goscinny. These are but a small sample of the top name authors. There are also some great international movies with the scripts written from scratch. These DVDs all have subtitles, so it doesn’t matter that you don’t speak the language, you can read what they are saying right on the screen. If it’s in the fiction DVD section, it will have subtitles. Some even have English dubbing as a viewing option, I always find the subtitles to be a better option though, as sometimes the dubbed version is a shorter movie than the original. Here are some of my recommendations: Tell No One. This French film is pretty loyal to the pages of Coben’s classic novel. The fact it is set in Paris is pretty much the only difference. Also set in Paris is The Ax, based on Westlake’s masterpiece novel, again of the same name where a retrenched man comes up with the ultimate solution to becoming unemployed. Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar, there’s actually been three movies based on the classic junior graphic novels, the third one Asterix at the Olympic Games was a bit average but the first two are brilliant, funny and a great homage to what you read as a child. Again the French have brought these to the big screen. The Door, Brilliant German film based on the book Die Damulstur by Akif Pirinicci. If you liked Steven King’s novel 11/22/63, this has a similar sort of plot. A depressed David finds an abandoned tunnel, goes inside to sleep it off on the night five years after his daughter drowned in his pool. When he awakens he follows the tunnel and comes across a door, when he opens it and goes through he’s back moments before his daughter drowns. But his younger self is there too, the five years younger David assuming he is a prowler violently attacks him. In the struggle a lethal wound kills younger David. Older David decides to stay in the past and just pretend to be younger David. He knows he will be a better father than the man he has killed anyway who was certainly no father of the year material. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot actually! Moving north to the studios of Scandanavia where they made a film of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish bestseller Let the Right One In, a tale about bullies and a vampire giving them their comeuppance was a lot better than its American remake Let Me In. Still on the theme of bullying, although this time not done by kids, The King of Devil’s Island takes the viewer/reader to Bastøy Boys Home correctional facility in Norway, back in the early 1900s, and the true story of how the boys there stood up to pure evil. Finally we have what I thought it was overrated and nothing that hadn’t been done before but a fair few people also liked a Swedish film called The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. Moving across to Asian films, we have one of the funniest movies ever made in Attack the Gas Station. When a Korean gang tries to rob a gas station only to find there’s no money in the till, they decide to run the place for the night, keeping the employees hostage and delving out justice for those who deserve it. One of few deliberately made to be under the violent comedy genre. Shaolin Soccer (also known as Kung-Fu Soccer) will satisfy your comedy hunger as well. According to IMBD this was the most successful Hong Kong produced movie ever made, grossing 60 million Hong Kong dollars in its local box office back in 2001. You can pretty much tell what it is about from the title but just in case you were wondering, a top player whose golden leg is broken by the mob puts together a team of martial arts students to play soccer. Also a nice comedy was the Japanese Australian road trip film Bondi Tsunami, with one of the funniest scenes ever in shot in film where a backpacker bites into a hamburger with an instant look of disgust on his face as he pulls out something purple. If you like action you can’t go past China’s Police Story with Jackie Chan doing way better martial arts fight scenes than anything he ever starred in for Hollywood producers. Likewise Indonesia’s The Raid has the viewer as a fly on the wall as a SWAT team raids a tower block run by the mob with deadly results for both sides.
Moving across to Central America GCCC Libraries have the much hyped El Narco about a man who returns from America after having illegally crossed to work when he was much younger. He returns to find his homeland run by drug barons and thugs. I thought this one was a bit disappointing but a lot of people seem to like it. So do you have an international film worth recommending for others to read? If so leave a recommendation in the comments section.
Update April 2014 – A few more good DVDs to read – Fin (translated as The End) was quite an enjoyable, what the hey is going on genre film. It is in Spanish but has clear English subtitles, and once the main plot of the film is underway, there’s not a great deal of talking anyway. The film only goes for 90 minutes, and really you’re better off going into this like I did not knowing a thing about it. But if you don’t want to just take my word for it and want to know something about it I’ll outline how this starts without I’m hoping spoiling too much of it for you. The basic plot revolves around a reunion of friends who haven’t seen each other for twenty years or so at a remote house in some mountains somewhere in the Spanish wilderness. However it soon becomes apparent that everyone either dislikes or has harboured resentment towards at least one other person in the group for what they did in those former younger days. They all also did something bad to a guy who hung with them in the past, who all but one of them had no idea was even invited let alone organised their little get together. He of course hasn’t shown up and when a few of them realise he’s no longer locked away in a mental asylum they want to bail. However for some reason all their car batteries are flat, their phones don’t work and something that flew over the top of them on fire and crashed somewhere in the valley bellow is also playing on their minds.
Are they in a slasher movie reunion usually set in a high school gym scenario where one of them is getting their vengeance for the past, or is something bigger that affects their region of Spain, or even the entire world happening or did while they were at the isolated cabin. Such as World War III, a terrorist attack, alien abduction, virus on a meteorite, the apocalypse. Whatever is going on they decide to hike the day or so it will take to the nearest town to find out, but how many will make it there, and what is making them disappear without trace one by one? Remember when the show Party of Five came out in the 90’s and three day stubble pretending you don’t shave become all the rage, well every guy in this one except one, doesn’t like to shave either. The only thing I thought could have been done better was the ending. I don’t really want to go into that in any more detail so as not to spoil the film for you.
Back to 1942 is an interesting look on an angle of World War II not really taught to us out here in Australia. How the Japanese invasion affected China. China used to have a very hierarchical social system much like medieval Europe and so forth. Well a severe lack of food due to the combination of a drought and invading forces pretty much equalled everyone out. Very interesting viewing.
For dog lovers, you can’t pass up the Korean film Werewolf Boy, where a mother and her young family encounter a feral child living on their newly rented rural property and take him in until the authorities find somewhere to put him. The boy can’t speak and acts like a timid dog, including with a dog’s table manners. The oldest daughter decides to make the situation more bearable by using what she reads in an old dog training manual. What follows is a classic tale of canine loyalty and love for a pet (who just happens to be in a human body).
In Darkness There’s plenty of occupied Europe during World War II movies out there, but this one stands out for two reasons. One it isn’t afraid to hold back on the viewer experiencing the struggles, fear, apprehension, and moral dilemmas of both the Jewish victims as well as the Polish citizens who if they choose to hide or even help their Jewish neighbours, will not only be killed themselves but so will their children. The tension portrayed by the actors and the understanding the misery of the living conditions is done extremely well by whoever made the sets, as is the decision to film the stuff underground with little light (obviously it would have been darker in real life but I don’t think any viewer would complain about this artistic licence needed to allow enough lighting to see what is going on).
The other reason In Darkness works is because when telling the story, they don’t make the hero out to be a saint with no faults. In fact initially Leopold Soha is on the bad side of the ledger as a thief pilfering houses and hiding stuff in the sewers to sell after the war . He also initially decides to hide a group of Jewish people not because it is the right thing to do, but as a way to take their money. Of course his conscience kicks in over the fourteen months but still the fact that these Polish filmmakers are prepared to make a film about one of their own hero citizens where the character stills have realistic faults makes this a better movie in my opinion. Hollywood, UK and Australian movies, we just don’t like to speak ill of our heroes when telling a tale, especially a war one, our filmmakers (and even history teachers) much prefer to take a romanticised view of someone, maybe afraid of the backlash for that person’s family or who knows what the reason is, I guess that’s just our culture. Recently I watched a similar true tale set in Warsaw that’s been in our GCCC collection for a while now, called A Courageous Heart, about Irena Sendler who also used the sewers to help Jewish people (especially children) escape the Ghettos and the trains to the concentration camps. Anna Paquin did a good job but her character was faultless throughout the entire film. I think the fact that the Polish were prepared to make one of their heroes more human over how the Americans did for the Polish hero in their movie, made In Darkness a better movie and one you could more put yourself in their shoes and wonder what you would do, because you could relate to this more authentic portrayal. I’m not saying Courageous Heart isn’t a good movie and worth watching, it is, but the viewer just seems to experience more in understanding the hardships and terror outcomes possible with choosing to help hide the Jewish people with In Darkness from the way it was made.
In Darkness is set in the Polish town of Lvov and is certainly one of the best films dealing with this topic. Don’t be put off by the fact you need to read a good movie. You really don’t even notice you are reading subtitles after a while.
A French film called The War of the Buttons is Not a bad option to watch after the much darker subject matter wise In Darkness film. Set in the year 1960 in rural France, the villagers of two neighbouring rural towns have been at war so to speak for generations. The kids aged 7-14, well boys anyway of both villages live to battle each other, complete with wooden swords to bash the opposition. Older male children have moved away, some to fight in the Algerian war. Both villages are dirt poor, kids wear hand-me-down clothing including dresses of older sisters for male children. Therefore the biggest fear for each troop of kids is that the other will damage their clothing, so when they get home the wrath and beatings from their parents will be worse than anything by the other kids. This of course in turn means that’s the goal of each opposition, such as cutting off the buttons of a shirt of a prisoner of war or throwing rotten fruit such as cherries at the enemy. This is a kid’s film though, even though the kids talk like they are medieval warriors, no one ever bleeds or gets bruises from the conflict.
Viewing concentrates on one village of the two with a coming of age sort of following of the village’s child leader, a boy called Lebrac who is the school smart mouth and always in detention. This is a big factor as his army often has to go into battle without him or else look like cowards in front of their town’s girls. The town’s teacher of course can see the potential in this student, however since Lebrac’s father is no longer in the picture, his mother relies on him to do all the farm chores and sees him being a labourer when he grows up at best. Throw into the mix the sister of the former child leader who is off fighting in the Algerian war who is the next door neighbour of Lebrac. She wants to be part of the battle, much to the disgust of the other boys who see having a girl fight with them as humiliating. She’s however a lot more intelligent and socially aware than they are, for one she is the only one who knows what the insult of Wet Willys the other town calls them is referring to. Your normal war problems such as a traitor, doing something you know is morally wrong to get somewhere with a girl and these sorts of things are also challenges for the group of boys.
It’s a fun film, most kids in my childhood had pretend battles like this often in the pine forest next to the school oval where you weren’t supposed to go, so it sort of brings the fantasy of child battles to life, where of course the kids in the film have to worry about getting into trouble if their parents find out, just like we did.
This is a film of a 1912 French novel which is part of their curriculum by Louis Pergaud. This is the only one with that name in the GCCC library collection but there have been a number of films made from that book over the years including an Irish film also adapted from his novel, and you should also note there were actually two French films released around the same time that were both translated from French into the same English title War of the Buttons if you chose to purchase the film later. This 2011 cinema release one’s French title is la guerre des boutons and the DVD company publishing it is Palace Films. There is a 2012 film La nouvelle guerre des boutons which is set during occupied France in World War II, sort of an Anne Frank type film. Both are set in rural French villages.
Some newer subtitled films I’ve come across are Force Majeure, a mostly in Swedish language film with moments of interaction with other tourists and French resort staff in English. A very slow paced, obviously filmed to be arty at times film. It is incorrectly labelled and marketed as a comedy movie, as other than a few awkward or bizarre situations, there really isn’t any comedy in the film at all. Force Majeure is more a societal analysis film, a how should people behave in certain situations when they are supposed to fulfilling a certain societal role (such as father, bread winner, protector) type film. The film does drag in parts, I’d say it needs editing but some lengthy scenes are obviously made that way for some artistic reason such as we watch the family just lying on their hotel bed for around a minute, they’re not having a conversation, they’re not doing anything, they’re just lying there. Whatever arty peer award the filmmakers were looking for with that scene I don’t know, but it was just boring and has you reaching for the fast forward button. This arty in the makers eyes, boring in the viewers eyes method is done at other times too such as watching a cable car chord move through a wheel on the chairlift rotate over and over again. The filmmakers also like to include going to the toilet scenes, one of the opening images is a young boy (the son) urinating at a urinal, we need to see this why? On the plus side the film does tackle an issue that maybe needs to be raised. Should we really hamper on a couple of seconds of unintentional natural response reactive behaviour to judge a person overall. This film premise revolves around the family in a restaurant admiring what they believe to be a controlled avalanche then panicking when it seems like the wall of snow is about to engulf them. The father tells them to run, grabs his phone and wallet and does just that. The mother frozen and confused in fear just stands there holding their daughter. You’d assume due to her inaction of perhaps waiting for her movement to know what he’s supposed to do the boy waits at the table instead of following his father’s fleeing heels. Of course the family (and some other tourist diners) had completely overreacted with the white cloud only being avalanche smoke, so when the father returns seconds later he laughs it off and the family gets on with their meal. Except the mother of course, who has her own interpretation of what just happened, ie he ran like a coward and left her and the kids to die. Of course she doesn’t voice that opinion there and then when events and reactions are fresh in everyone’s mind to discuss. Instead she waits until herself and her husband are seated with another couple for dinner and proceeds to bring up his cowardice in front of them. He is of course embarrassed and angry at this action and publicly denies her version of events, which infuriates her further.
The rest of the film continues on with the aftermath of both these seen as betrayal actions by the other, which negatively affects their children caught in the middle and fearful of a divorce as the mother just refuses to let the issue drop, and in fact escalates it further when she brings up the issue with his childhood friend also at the resort.
Lilyhammer is a nice little Norwegian TV show, the language spoken switches between Norwegian and English, English subtitles appear when Norwegian is spoken. This adds to the authenticity of the show, I’m sure someone in America was tempted to dub the Norwegian’s voices with English speaking voiceovers, but it works so much better in its native tongue. Steven Van Zandt plays a stereotypical from one of the Eastern top corner states of America, underworld boss. He is a little bit cartoony to be believable but he nails the mannerisms of the stereotype from his facial expressions that you’ve seen in the God Father and other mob movies to his mafia style haircut and insistence on wearing Italian loafers. He was actually in The Sopranos in fact another character mentions he is acting like a character from that show at the end of season 2 while another has the theme song playing in their car in the next scene, but he definitely has the mob boss stereotype down pat. Lilyhammer is a culture clash, fish out of water type show, as our New York mafia boss, now on the Witness Protection Program tries to blend in with the locals. Once you’ve learnt to do things the mob way, it is hard to let those habits go, especially when dealing with those who are annoying you or making your life difficult with their rules.
Obviously the fictional townfolk of Lilyhammer are different to the real Lillehammer (spelt different) people, the town is portrayed as a lot smaller and less populated for one. But name an American, Australian or UK production that has ever accurately portrayed whatever city or town you’ve lived in? So for me this isn’t a big deal and the other characters are all played by Norwegian actors. Lilyhammer isn’t quite as Fargo like as I had anticipated but it is still a very good dark humour TV show. My only criticism of the concept is that he picks up fluent Norwegian much too fast and the violence towards the punk on the train and a few others at times should have been a bit heavier to get their co-operation, which happens a little too easily to be realistic.
Two Days One Night has got a lot of praise, but for me it was a bit average and is one of those movies where if you hadn’t read the back blurb on the DVD cover, you wouldn’t understand what is going on until a fair while into the film. The problem watching this film though is that you just can’t believe the premise scenario of the film to be plausible at all. Earlier on a Friday morning Sandra is told that her job at a factory no longer exists because the 16 employees who had been doing their jobs, as well as hers while she was away on sick leave (depression), voted by a show of hands fourteen to two, to terminate her in exchange for a bonus of 1000 Euros a year. However one of her colleagues has lobbied the boss to have a revote, since it has become apparent the foreman threatened a number of voters that if she didn’t go they might and also spoke a lot of other nonsense. So there will be a revote, this time a silent vote at 8am Monday morning and Sandra’s husband and the colleague who got the revote, want her to visit each worker at home and lobby them to forgo the bonus for her to stay. Now this seems a completely ridiculous scenario but actually the scenario isn’t what you think it is by reading the subtitles. I think what was really the scenario was somewhat lost from the Belgium to English translation, as in one of the conversations with one of the final workers it is mentioned that they work an extra three hours a week to get the extra thousand euros a week. So basically it’s her job’s hours and pay being split amongst the other 16 workers and not really a bonus as we would know a bonus to be in English speaking countries. Even so the scenario is still completely absurd. She’d easily be able to lodge a wrongful dismissal case with whatever government department in Belgium (or the wider European Union) handles that sort of thing. You can’t fire people for having a disability and missing work due to it. Even if you could it wouldn’t be up to other employees to vote on the issue, and I don’t really see how the company saves money, even in a scenario where they aren’t paying any penalty rates and just the standard hourly rate for the extra three hours, it would still cost them the same money.
Even the reactions from some of the other staff she visits are hard to fathom. They rely on the money to pay their mortgages, or school fees, really? They only just found out they have a chance of making these temporary extra hours permanent so we’re supposed to believe they signed contracts or whatever and committed themselves to these expenses in one day, most of that day while most of these people would have still been at work as well? Surely you’d wait to see if Sandra puts in a complaint to the government department, goes to the media or whatever rather than just enrolling your kids in private school, committing to build an extension on your house etcetera straight after the vote.
The acting though is pretty good, you can see why Marion Cotillard was nominated for an academy award this year (2015) for the role. You do totally believe that she is someone who is recovering from depression (well I’d stay sill there but maybe not as bad), and also addicted to her meds, as well as suicidal. The movie is sort of filmed like an along for the ride silent observer documentary rather than the traditional feature film style, which maybe makes the obvious fiction scenario seem a lot more real. Sandra isn’t the brightest person in the world, nor is her husband. They certainly never really thought through the obvious downside to a plan of visiting people in their homes to their campaign. Greedy spouses now being involved in the decision should have pretty obvious for example. She obviously would have been better off spending her weekend contacting a workplace lawyer but we wouldn’t have much of a film if she just did that!
I haven’t read the graphic novels the Black Butler movie is based on so wasn’t familiar with the plot. For me the movie storyline was interesting but got pretty predictable half way through. The ending scene in the factory dragging on a bit with not much action and a lot of talking when you knew what certain characters were going to say and do, this could have been edited down a bit, as the entire movie goes for two hours after all. The ending scenes were the only time I started to get bored. But there are some really cool choreographed action scenes throughout, we’re initially introduced to the demonic butler character and his master in a warehouse where young girls are being beaten and shoved into wooden crates. We’re quickly introduced to some awesome butterknife (yes butterknife) fight action here. There’s other methods of combat and weapons used throughout the movie including a really cool female character as the kicker of arse in a firing guns action sequence. The action in all fight scenes is over the top unrealistic but it’s a lot of fun.
The demonic butler actor looks very similar to the one seen on the graphic novel covers so obviously very well cast there. The master though, if we’re supposed to buy that everyone she comes across thinks she’s a boy, the fact the actress has a very feminine face doesn’t really make this plausible. I don’t know what she looks like in the books but for someone who hasn’t seen her in them I just couldn’t believe anyone would mistake her for a boy. Even her short haircut isn’t one you see on guys. The clutz maid character I thought was really good although I have no idea if she’s like the one in the graphic novels but she was enjoyable to watch for sure.
The film is spoken in Japanese with English subtitles, sometimes Japanese subtitles when a public speaker or some character is speaking in English. Sometimes the two languages stay on the screen at the one time. It would have been better to have put the subtitles on a clean version of film before the Japanese ones were added.
Why Don’t You Play in Hell is another Japanese film, with English subtitles. The film goes for two hours and would have benefited from a bit of editing as the film does get a bit boring in between fight scenes. It’s the type of film that if you ever watched a second time, you’d fast forward between the good bits. They are fun good bits though, deliberately cheesy and over the top killing scenes. This is a movie where people are fighting to the death, someone yells cut and they stop to listen to direction. It’s having fun with the whole making an amateur film genre in that the premise of the film has a mob boss at war with a rival family wanting his daughter to star in a film he’s financing for the enjoyment of his wife who is about to be released after ten years in jail for brutally killing and chasing through the streets (which is why she didn’t get off on self defence) a gang of hit men who came to their house. Don’t worry you get to see and enjoy her doing that. His daughter a young girl at the time his wife went to jail was then the star of catchy toothbrush commercial which authorities pulled off the air when the murders happened. Of course she’s now in her late teens and doesn’t see a lame movie as a way to become a star so has run off. Meanwhile a group of film students has been out and about for the past ten years filming street brawls and anything else interesting waiting for their big break. The two worlds obviously collide.
The final 30 minutes or so (the movie being shot within the movie) is non stop cheesy fight scene entertainment. You’ve got all gangsters switching from guns to swords just because they are asked to, a character asking for a time out so they could be killed by someone else and other over the top stuff like this. Plenty of entertaining fake heads with swords in them, a decapitated body giving the thumbs up and lots of other fun like this too. Although the fight scenes are pretty entertaining the movie as I mentioned earlier does suffer from not being that entertaining in between, you’re pretty much just reading dialogue between characters on the screen which isn’t really necessary for the progression to the next action scene and two hours reading a film is a long time. I also found the lust for the little girl for the past ten years by the rival mafia boss a little disturbing. Overall though Why Don’t You Play in Hell is a pretty entertaining movie.
In Order of Disappearance is a fairly simple Norwegian vengeance film, where a Norwegian snow plougher decides to wipe out a drug cartel to avenge his murdered son. It probably could have done with a bit of editing of some scenes in between the action, that dragged a bit. As its nearly two hours duration does stretch the enjoyment factor a little. Basic premise is Nils, a snow plough operator who also won citizen of the year in his local community should be celebrating his award, instead he and his wife have been summoned to the morgue to identify the body of their son. Nils asks the policeman at the morgue what they are going to and doesn’t like the dismissive answer of there’s not much we can do for a junkie who overdoses.
Nils doesn’t believe his son would do drugs, and when his son’s friend confesses to him that the drug dealers killed his son because they thought he had stolen the drugs that he in fact did, Nil decides to avenge his son by killing everyone involved, starting at the bottom of the drug food chain and moving up with the name each player gives him, until he gets to the top. But is this something a simple snow plougher can achieve?
The Counterfeiters is an Austrian film (German language) based on actual events in World War II that I must admit I’d never heard of but am glad this film was made to tell it, as it’s an interesting part of history. I originally wondered if this film was a few decades old as that’s what the picture looks like. It’s obviously intentional for this 2007 film and is very effective in giving it a sort of you are there back then feel. Basically a career criminal is sent to a concentration camp where his arrestor who has now been promoted, is in charge and has grand plans for his skillset. Salomon isn’t your typical nice guy in a bad situation, he’s a very self preservation person who at the start of the film states something along the lines that he doesn’t care for the problems others Jewish people are facing as it’s up to each person to control what they get out of life, but he does seem to develop a bit of a conscious as his incarceration goes on. This realistic lack of Hollywood hero type character means, combined with the fact you the viewer are unlikely to have heard of this story before viewing, means you don’t really know what moral decisions he (and the other prisoners) will make in relation to self preservation for their immediate group of fellow captives against successfully doing what the Nazi soldiers want and prolonging the war.
Although the graphic and dreadful situation of the concentration camps isn’t shown as heavy as other films, The Counterfeiters still has enough scenes every now and again reminding you of the horror or the situation for the prisoners. A great film and a great little known story from World War II.
The Hunt is a Danish film where a man played by Mads Mikkelsen shows the reason unfortunately why so many of us males, never would consider any career such as a Kindergarten teacher, as one false allegation, such as the one in this one, that isn’t investigated properly by the old woman who runs the centre, with her own prejudice that a child could never lie, can ruin not only the falsely accused’s life, but his family as well. The ending doesn’t really answer everything but other than the ending, it’s a film everyone should watch, if you’re ever in this situation, or for well any crime really, so you stop and pause and think, maybe we’re being too quick to judge and condemn.