Grace of Monaco
Hm… it didn’t knock my socks off. I wonder why they chose that episode from Grace Kelly’s life and not for example how she fell in love with Rainier of Monaco. The movie starts when they are married for a couple of years already and centers around French – Monaco struggles, sort of claiming that Grace prevented the French from annexing the little principality. I have no clue whether that is historically correct, but it does not matter, since in the movie I found it unconvincing. The extreme close ups of Nicole Kidman’s eyes do not help to establish that she was the one who persuaded the French not to invade. The acting was OK, I guess, but it failed to raise compassion. The movie did not manage to emotionally engage me in contrast to movies like „The Dutchess“ or „The Young Victoria“, which are, somewhat in the same vain. Grace of Monaco just remained too cold and distant and I also would have liked to see more emotions and action from Tim Roth as Rainier. All in all a movie that will surely be pretty much forgotten soon.
The Maze Runner
This thing seems to be from 2013 but so far it had completely escaped my attention. The premise is interesting, a bunch of adolescent boys wakes up in the central garden of a giant maze structure. During the day the concrete and steel maze beyond the garden is open, during the night the maze shifts and half mechanical, half biological monsters are chasing and killing whoever fails to return to the central garden before the doors close.
The goal of the kids locked inside is of course to find a way out. Their memories have been wiped, they have no idea why they are in there and some of them are in the maze for three years already. A bold newcomer is dead set on getting out.
They spend the entire movie with trying to get out and for the viewer the questions mount as to what’s outside, why the maze is there and who put the kids into it. The problem with building up and up like that is that you need a really smart and cool explanation in the end, or you give none. The cult movie „Cube“ wisely chose the latter and we never find out who put them into the cube, and why it exists. Smart move! The Maze Runner should have done the same. The explanation in the end that it’s a post-apocalyptic world outside and the kids have been sent into the maze to train them for survival is incredibly lame (what do you need a maze for to train when outside is training enough already?). Until the last five minutes, the movie wasn’t bad (some nice character studies of some of the kids not wanting to leave anymore) and when you watch it, stop the moment they get out of the maze and imagine how you would have let it end.
A belayed review, since the movie is not that new anymore, but it left an impression on me, so I shall talk about it.
The style of the hand-held camera is very tiring, yes, and I am not sure whether I would have been able to watch it in a movie theater. At home on the smaller TV screen it was OK.
The premise: some young dudes have a farewell party for someone in New York, who is supposed to go as an expat to Japan (of all places) for a while. During their party, which someone films with a handycam, a monster of Godzilla proportions descends upon New York and goes on a rampage.
What is very well done is that the party goers have no clue whatsoever about what is going on. From one minute to the next their lives are destroyed and they face death and destruction.
One of the best scenes was for me when the camera holder and three others flee from the monster into the subway and encounter the monster’s smaller minions, spider-like creatures that attack them. The hand-held camera puts you truly into the perspective of the characters and let’s you experience the horror of the situation together with them.
I also liked all the other details, that the movie is exactly as long as a mini-dv band, 1h16 min, that it’s „government property“ now and used as a documentation of the monster’s appearance. And that, of course, there is no explanation for where the monster came from, since the guy who holds the camera and his buddies do not know. This technique gets you around wild, far-fetched and unconvincing explanations of where the kaiju in Pacific Rim come from, for example. I also liked the ending very much – they all die! The camera holder gets eaten by the monster, the rest of them is buried under rubble where the military then finds the camera and confiscates the tape.
Tough to watch, due to the hand-held camera, but great concept and very well done.
Into the Wild
Also this movie is not the newest of them all, it’s from 2007, but it left an even bigger impression on me than Cloverfield. It’s based on the true story of a smart and college educated young man, Chris, who gives it all up, drifts through the US for a year plus until he goes alone into the wilderness in Alaska. He’s suffering from identity crisis, is questioning all the materialism and the need „to have to do something with your life“ in terms of career and family.
Spoiler alert – the quest for himself and the meaning of life costs him that very life. He arrives in Alaska in late winter, finds an old bus in the middle of nowhere that some other hermit used before him, and manages to survive on his own for three months. When he wants to go back in summer, he finds that a river he crossed easily when it was half frozen, is now impassable due to melt water. He gets stuck at his bus and slowly starves, the process being accelerated when he eats poisonous plants by mistake.
He died in his bus at the age of 23 or 24 and two weeks after he died, moose hunters found him in his bus by coincidence. Had they found him three weeks earlier…
The movie is well told, alternating between scenes at the bus and flashbacks about his journey and family life before it. The guy’s journey is tainted with tragedy, since you understand his urge for freedom and leaving behind all that capitalism and materialism, and it’s such a shame that he does not survive his dream of going to Alaska and living in the wild.
For me this movie has another dimension – I was born in Germany, I live now in Japan, there is not enough wilderness in these two countries to go on an adventure like this. You can still get lost in the Japanese mountains and be attacked by a bear, yes, however, if you are equipped like Chris, hunting rifle and all, you must be extremely unlucky to die before someone finds you. There are just too many people here and the country is too small for dying in the wild. If you walk here for a hundred km, there will be a village somewhere, but if you walk for a hundred km in Alaska…
It’s a good movie worth watching and belongs to the category of‘: you’ll remember it for a while.