Great moments in cinema: Karate Girl

You may remember our occasional series “Great moments in cinema” where we showcase movie you may not catch on tv any day soon and the scenes that are mostly responsible for that. It looks like our archive is missing a couple of older editions and we really should do something about that, but today we’ll focus on a brand new edition. And by ‘new’, we mean a Turkish movie from 1974.

We’ve seen bits of this scene before, but we’re proud – we’ll have to redefine ‘proud’ – to show you the full-length scene. And an intro to boost… our Karate Girl is beating up a girl in order to get vital information. This is a Turkish film and it’s hard to figure out what’s done worse: the English dubbing or the acting skills that went into pretending this is a real fight and not an ode to a German folklore dance.
But fear not, after 20 seconds of almost being hit in the face, the girl caves in and tells where the evil guy is hiding. In fact, he’s apparently so evil he has to keep up his disguise while lying on the bed and browsing an adult mag. Actually, sorry for spoiling that… because maybe you hadn’t noticed our baddie was wearing a wig. After all, it looks so convincing…

However, it’s not as convincing as what comes next: our heroine fights the baddie and then shoots him… more than once (as we hear the voice of her sensei say: “After shooting him once, you must shoot again. You may think he is dead, but he may be alive.”)

Wise words and a true masterpiece.

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Chappie

At the time of writing, Neill Blomkamp has directed three movies. His first one, District 9, hit bullseye immediately. His third one seems to be, as the British tend to say, marmite. More than 191.000 votes have been cast on the IMDb site and the overall score can only be described as decent (6.9/10). Dissecting the score, you’ll find the movie is best liked by Chappie_postergirls younger than 18 and the most active voters gave it the lowest ranking. To us, that seems to make a lot of sense. In a couple of sentences, we’ll reveal which question we’re going to ask if someone wants to hear from us if we’d recommend Chappie or not. But first, it’s time for a synopsis.

District 9 exposed us to an alien race, forced to live in the slums of South Africa. Chappie also takes us to that area, this time only to show us crime gangs who terrorize the neighbourhood, the police and other gangs. Luckily, the film is set in the near future, so the police can rely on droids to be sent into the field. One such droid, number 22, isn’t too lucky: fresh from a repair session, it’s once again destroyed the first time it’s back on a mission. The droid is written off and would’ve been destroyed if it weren’t for its creator Dean Wilson (Dev Patel). Dean has just made a breakthrough in an AI project and sees N°22 as the perfect droid to test it out on: can droids start thinking? Or, as Dean seems to wonder, write its own poetry. Because that’s the niche market we still needed: droid poetry.
Sadly for Dean, a criminal gang wants to kidnap him to control all droids and once they discover Dean’s secret project and the broken droid, it doesn’t take them too long to start using Chappie, the name they give the thinking droid, for their evil plans…

chappie02Dev Patel isn’t the only known name in the credits list of Chappie. Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver also smaller roles and there’s even a cameo for CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Oh, and there’s Die Antwoord. Which brings us to that question you were going to ask us:

You: “Hey Kurtodrome, should we watch Chappie or not?”
We: “Well, let us ask you something too: do you like Die Antwoord?”

If you don’t like Die Antwoord, by all means skip this film. If you like them a lot, go and watch it. If you’re somewhere in between, avoid Chappie too. And if you watch your movies based on how credible the performances of the artists are, we have very bad news for you. Yo-Landi (that should be ¥o-Landi Vi$$er, but we can no longer be @r$€d to deal with weird letters) has a decent range, but Ninja is such a two-dimensional charicature, even more than in the videos of the band) that it hurts the film. Even Blomkamp seems to have no idea what he wants to do: direct a movie or the video of the next Die Antwoord video. There are moments where Die Antwoord look like they’re acting, only for Chappie to suddenly start playing a bit from another track. And nowhere chappie01is that more painful than when Die Antwoord, another gang member and Chappie are ready for a robbery and walk towards the camera in slow motion (because that’s been cool since Reservoir Dogs, which was totally the first movie to ever do that – and no, Ta****ino never stole an idea from another movie, never). All natural sounds have been deleted and all we hear over the sight over this wannabe cool shot is a track by Die Antwoord. Which, even if you like the band, makes you realize you’re watching a long fanboy promo rather than a movie.

There are more scenes which hardly make sense: as Chappie is a droid who doesn’t want to do any harm, Ninja – who is played by Ninja – leaves him with a group of hoodlums, who terrorize him and set him on fire. But Chappie is a droid, so he survives… only to be kidnapped by a colleague of Dean who really hates Dean’s guts and cuts off one of Chappie’s arms… as one does. Which could’ve been moving, but then Yo-Landi and Dean use another arm as replacement and that’s the end of that (sort of). And then there’s the bit where Chappie doesn’t want to hold a gun because that hurts people… but he is fine chappie03with stabbing people. True, in the film it’s explained: Ninja – who is played by Ninja – tells Chappie that stabbing somebody “puts them to sleep”. Erm, but don’t the people who get stabbed shout in pain and start bleeding? Yes, they do, but for some reason Chappie is okay with that, despite stabbing and shooting looking very much alike and even though Chappie has already seen people sleep (so an intelligent droid should’ve known that this was a clear lie).

And in the end, that is the real problem with Chappie: it doesn’t know whether it wants to be trash or an emotional rollercoaster, a movie or an extended fanboy video for a band. And for us, that’s too many problems to like the film. It’s not that we don’t like Die Antwoord, because we like some of their tracks. It’s that one half of the duo can’t act in a film that has no idea of what it’s trying to be. Unless they always wanted to make a convoluted mess.

In memory of George A. Romero

romeroGeorge A. Romero is no longer with us. We read the news tonight and it felt like a punch in the gut. Romero was the director who became famous thanks to his debut Night of the Living Dead, a movie whose reputation hung over Romero’s later career – especially if you forward a couple of decades. Once his zombie trilogy was released in full, it seemed like people seemed to think Romero was no longer able to make another masterpiece. And when the zombie movies boomed again in the noughties, Romero decided that would’ve been a shame if everyone was making money with zombie movies apart from him (as there was no copyright on Night, companies didn’t have to pay him to put another edition of the film out on dvd), so he returned to the world of the undead for three more movies.

But it would be wrong to see Romero just as a director of zombie films. Especially, earlier in his career he wrote and directed several other films which are worth watching. Even though Knightriders is often forgotten in many lists, it has its fair share of fans and not knightriderswithout reason: it’s a nice movie where a group of bikers re-enact the world of medieval knights and, no matter how unlikely that sounds, it does work (and starts a.o. Ed Harris and Tom Savini). It’s not in our Top 3, but we thought we’d give it a mention, rather than spend a lot of time on that quintessential Romero movie: Night of the Living Dead. Yes, it’s in our top 3 because it’s the start of a zombie genre that leads up to now when zombies are even on TV (we’re not talking about political leaders, but about shows like The Walking Dead – and yes, the fact we said “shows”, so plural – is making our point for us. And it’s a start of a trilogy where all three movies have a message and are a sign of the times. So there, Night of the Living Dead is in our top three, but if you want to avoid zombies at any cost: feel free to pick Knightriders as an alternative.

Night would have been our number two, which is – you don’t have to tell us how charts work – higher than number three. That’s our spot for The Crazies, which – like Night – has also been remade. Romero’s original was released in 1973 and rather than reviewing it now, we’ll refer you to our previous review – which you can find here.

Number one is Martin. It’s a wonderful film about a young man who thinks he’s a vampire and the entire film Romero makes you guess whether he’s delusional or really a vampire). It’s nowhere as known as his zombie movies, which is a terrible shame you can do something about… by watching it. Apparently, it was also Romero’s most loved film, so if you like it, you’re in good company.

Martin-RomeroP.S. Because of this article, the scheduled review will now be posted on Thursday. At this point, Avenue Kurtodrome releases (at least) one entry a week, so if you check in once every seven days you should always be able to read something new.

Curve

Opinions differ. What one person likes, another doesn’t. Some comments about the short film below are negative, going from “1/10” (not exactly a multi-layered review) to “excellent job”. One reviewer said Curve lacked a back-ground story. If you read some of our earlier reviews of short movies, you might remember we don’t agree with that. Short movies, if done well, are perfectly equipped to show you a singular moment or event. Curve shows you a young woman clinging to a smooth surface and well aware of one thing: there’s a deep dark abyss beneath her feet and falling doesn’t seem like the best option. You don’t know why she’s there or why there’s blood on her head (Did she fall? Was she pushed?) No, in the end there’s only one question here: can she cling on or not?

Curve, written and directed by Tim Egan and starring Laura Jane Turner, is an Australian movie. Not that it shows: the actress doesn’t speak and the curve itself could’ve been anywhere (or nowhere). It’s a tiny unworldly atmosphere, reduced to the yes/no question we mentioned above.

If that’s not your thing, don’t bother with Curve. But as we mentioned earlier: opinions differ. Curve is the winner of several awards as you can see in the oblong below. There’s also a play button at the bottom left. Feel free to click on it.

CURVE from Lodestone Films on Vimeo.

2016: who would’ve been n°1?

Despite our best intentions to do this annually, we have had years who had to go without a list of the best 99 musical tracks. For very personal reasons, 2016 was one of those years. You’ll remember 2016, that bundle of joy. You couldn’t even enjoy a musical programme to hide from the dreadful news because virtually every show was interrupted by an announcement of another musical legend no longer amongst the living.

One thing struck us, though: we might have had lots of discussions offline about the influence of David Bowie, but when we had a look at our online archive, it turned out we hadn’t published that much about him.
So yes, we did see Bowie as one of the biggest artists of the 20th century (for various reasons we won’t mention here, but do feel free to send us a postcard if you’d like some correspondence about this topic) and his death (in January) as well as the release of Blackstar just before he’d leave us set the tone for the musical year 2016.

“Dollar Days” isn’t just a tribute to a late artist, it also contains lyrics that may have received fewer lines written about them than “Lazarus” but are equally – if not more – poignant. Especially the “I’m dying to” which – with an extra ‘o’ in ‘to’ – haunts you until well after the final notes…

Had there been a Best of 2016, “Dollar Days” would have the number one. So here it is:

Le Corbeau

Nothing gave me more pleasure than – while looking for appropriate pictures to accompany this post – discovering a still of The Giant Claw. Rest assured, that monumental piece of cinema couldn’t be more apart from today’s topic. Both movies are in black and white, but that’s about it. Le Corbeau, which is French for “raven”, is a 1943 film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. Yes, that means this film is 73 years old, but that does not mean you never should’ve heard of the director. Unless you’re adamant about boycotting Le Corbeauanything made prior to the 21st century (in which case you’re an idiot). Clouzot is after all the director of that essential classic Les Diaboliques, a must-see movie for anyone claiming to be a lover of cinema.

Le Corbeau is no Diaboliques, but don’t worry: watching this film is no act of masochism. On offer is a semi-classic, which was made in 1943. That was during the Second World War and it definitely adds to the movie.
An unknown person is sending messages that are smack in the middle of whistleblowing and village gossip. The messages, thrown through windows or using even less subtle methods, are always signed by… the raven. In other words, the film becomes one big question: Who is the Raven? Add to this a protagonist who may or may not have a mysterious past and you have all the elements to make an interesting movie, especially in the hands of a more than capable director. You have your typical anti-hero and the scene where he tries to discover who’s the Raven by forcing all the suspects to write lines in a classroom is one you’ll remember for months after you’ve seen this film.

To be honest, Le Corbeau was on our shelves for years before we decided to give it a go and the trailer we’re about to show may not be the most convincing of this season, but it’s as good as we could find and maybe you’ll just have to trust us on this one. If your French is decent enough, you should check this out on France 3 next Sunday (Cinéma de minuit). If not, we’re sure you can find this film elsewhere. It was even released by Criterion (sadly out of print by now) and they don’t release just any old film.

This Is She

The time felt about right for another short movie. Short movies are interesting for various reasons, either because they’re made by people learning the trade or because we’re dealing with a story that works better in a shorter frame. At its worst, a short movie feels flat because it doesn’t satisfy: the story isn’t worked out correctly, resulting in movies that are too dense (trying to tell too much in a couple of minutes) or fleeting (there’s not enough to make an interesting movie out of it). At its best, shorter movies have the ability to stay with you for longer than full-feature movies do. Shorter movies either show a certain fact or 567011672_1280x720event and explore it (as with the recently shown Blood Pulls A Gun) or they take one specific event (in this case the sudden arrival of a spot on the wall) and build up the movie with the effects, action and reaction – focusing almost entirely on that. Besides that, things happen that prompt questions. We don’t get too many details of the young woman: we hear her parents on the phone, there is a back story hinted at during those calls, there’s a man who suddenly pops up, we see a glimpse of her job when she arrives home from work, … but the main focus here is the spot.

Looking for a movie to post on the Avenue, we browsed through several others, but too often we didn’t feel satisfied enough or there was too much adoration for iconic filmmakers. Channeling your heroes isn’t bad in itself, but it should never get in the way of this-is-she-stillthe short. It’s not good to watch a film and catch yourself thinking “Hmm, I wonder how many movies by Lynch and Godard they must’ve watched” rather than paying attention to the film itself. Having said that, it’s true that we started watching This Is She while thinking of Repulsion, but before too long, This is she moves into completely different territory. Or in other words, it becomes a work of its own.

The protagonist is played by Grace Rex. The Avenue computers, who like the internet, never forget told us that we’d already done a search on “Grace Rex” and, unlike a lot of the internet, our computers weren’t wrong: she gave a memorable performance during an episode of Blindspot. In the case of This is she, Grace is more than just the leading actress, she also wrote the story. The director is Tarik Karam, who has been a second unit director on Extremely Loud & Terribly Close and The Reader and so far helmed a couple of shorts and a documentary himself.

So there you go, the story of a young woman who discovers a spot on the wall. That’s all you need to know about this film. Enjoy!

THIS IS SHE from Grace Rex on Vimeo.