Archives for category: movie review
Entrance to the Melbourne Museum
Showing the Six Bond Men

Currently, at the Melbourne Museum is Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style. It traces the importance of fashion and design in the 23 official Bond movies. From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, the Bond movie franchise has been going strong for 50 years. James Bond has meant many things to many people, and the Bond movies have influenced everything from the cut of men’s suits to sport cars. On display are dozens of original costumes, props, set designs, movie clips, and Bond paraphernalia.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the exhibition. It’s hard to imagine, but the curators managed to make James Bond boring. This exhibition should have been called “Blah, James Blah,” and, at 24 Australian Dollars, it was overpriced.

Jill Masterson as the Golden Girl
in Goldfinger

One highlight of the exhibition was a life sized replica of Jill Masterson, the actress in Goldfinger who was painted gold. Also, the exhibition did convey the impact of the Bond films on the world of fashion and even technology. Yet, it neglected to address some fairly obvious social issues, such as the sexist nature of the films themselves.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but the exhibition left me cold. Perhaps, I was hoping for the thrill and action of a real Bond film. 

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Entrance to the Melbourne Museum
Showing the Six Bond Men

Currently, at the Melbourne Museum is Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style. It traces the importance of fashion and design in the 23 official Bond movies. From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, the Bond movie franchise has been going strong for 50 years. James Bond has meant many things to many people, and the Bond movies have influenced everything from the cut of men’s suits to sport cars. On display are dozens of original costumes, props, set designs, movie clips, and Bond paraphernalia.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the exhibition. It’s hard to imagine, but the curators managed to make James Bond boring. This exhibition should have been called “Blah, James Blah,” and, at 24 Australian Dollars, it was overpriced.

Jill Masterson as the Golden Girl
in Goldfinger

One highlight of the exhibition was a life sized replica of Jill Masterson, the actress in Goldfinger who was painted gold. Also, the exhibition did convey the impact of the Bond films on the world of fashion and even technology. Yet, it neglected to address some fairly obvious social issues, such as the sexist nature of the films themselves.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but the exhibition left me cold. Perhaps, I was hoping for the thrill and action of a real Bond film. 

A skateboarding culture in the former East Germany? This Ain’t California is a documentary film celebrating the hidden East German skateboarding culture. Even if you’re not a skateboarding enthusiast, this movie is a fascinating look at three young men driven to excel. There are breathtaking displays of nose wheelies and ollies, including entertaining sequences filmed in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz during the mid-1980’s. It’s worth a view just to see how Berlin has changed since reunification.


The Mill and the Cross is a very unusual film about a painting. Specifically, Pieter Bruegel’s masterpiece The Way to Calvary, the story of the Crucifixion set in Flanders during the brutal Spanish occupation. There’s not much narrative and very little dialogue in the movie; yet, its painstaking attention to detail and mesmerizing images are spellbinding. 

A Portion of
The Way to Calvary (1564)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder

As the movie unfolds, we enter the world of the painting and observe the ordinary lives of 16th-century people: couples engaged in sexual dalliances, children scurrying about, musicians playing instruments, soldiers tormenting the villagers, and farmers tending their fields. The characters move in and out of the painting as landscapes change between filmed and painted images. The film mixes live action, special effects, green screen work, and the actual painting itself. It’s a surreal vision of both the Crucifixion and the early Renaissance.


France has produced some very funny and engaging movies over the years, including 8 Women (2002), Amelie (2001), and The Closet (2001). I recently saw two delightful movies from La Belle France that don’t demand much except an open heart. 

Haute Cuisine (2012) (Les Saveurs du Palais, original title) is a charming and mouthwatering movie about the French president’s first female chef. Based on a true story, Haute Cuisine is a tasty morsel that leaves you salivating over the scrumptious french dishes that fill the screen. And although Haute Cuisine has subplots involving sexism and politics, it’s foremost a movie about food. 

Populaire (2102)

Populaire (2012) evokes the Rock Hudson and Doris Day movies of the early 1960’s. It’s a predictable romantic comedy with vibrant colors, snazzy pop music, and vintage clothes. Who cares about the implausible plot, the contrived situations, and stereotypical characters. Populaire is just fun. 

Last Tuesday was the 52nd anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall. On the morning of August 13, 1961, East Berliners woke to find soldiers had blocked off the streets, cut off rail links, and begun building a wall. The city’s division followed that of Germany as millions of people in the east were isolated. Over the course of the next 27 years, between 600-700 people died (no exact number is known) trying to flee from East Germany before the Wall eventually fell in 1989.

The Berlin Wall stood as a symbol of Communism and the Cold War and also as a reminder of the potential for nuclear holocaust. In the 1960’s, the Cold War became a popular movie theme. There were a few good ones, but most were mediocre.

I was a little surprised to discover that Alfred Hitchcock had made one of the weak ones, Torn Curtain. An American scientist (Paul Newman) defects to East Germany to obtain information about an anti-ballistic missile program. The movie is formulaic and full of implausibility. In the early 1960’s, Hitchcock’s was on a roll. His three previous movies Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), and Marnie (1964) were inventive and suspenseful stories that pressed the limits of censorship. However, Torn Curtainis a predicable spy caper that falls flat. There are a few good scenes, but overall, the movie is a failure.

By contrast, Martin Ritt’s, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a classic. It’s about a British agent that is sent to East Germany to plant disinformation. Filmed in black and white, and starring Richard Burton (one of his few restrained performances), Claire Bloom, and Oskar Werner, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is an unflinching look at the spy business. There are no good guys in this movie, just wretched characters engaged in a ruthless occupation. Ritt’s economical use of dialogue, subdued cinematography, and somber set decoration makes for an intense drama that still holds up.

Movie Trivia: The movie’s first scene at Checkpoint Charlie was filmed on a studio set in Ireland. It bears little resemblance to the street (Friedrichsstraße) where where Checkpoint Charlie actually stands.
Last Tuesday was the 52nd anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall. On the morning of August 13, 1961, East Berliners woke to find soldiers had blocked off the streets, cut off rail links, and begun building a wall. The city’s division followed that of Germany as millions of people in the east were isolated. Over the course of the next 27 years, between 600-700 people died (no exact number is known) trying to flee from East Germany before the Wall eventually fell in 1989.

The Berlin Wall stood as a symbol of Communism and the Cold War and also as a reminder of the potential for nuclear holocaust. In the 1960’s, the Cold War became a popular movie theme. There were a few good ones, but most were mediocre.

I was a little surprised to discover that Alfred Hitchcock had made one of the weak ones, Torn Curtain. An American scientist (Paul Newman) defects to East Germany to obtain information about an anti-ballistic missile program. The movie is formulaic and full of implausibility. In the early 1960’s, Hitchcock’s was on a roll. His three previous movies Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), and Marnie (1964) were inventive and suspenseful stories that pressed the limits of censorship. However, Torn Curtainis a predicable spy caper that falls flat. There are a few good scenes, but overall, the movie is a failure.

By contrast, Martin Ritt’s, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a classic. It’s about a British agent that is sent to East Germany to plant disinformation. Filmed in black and white, and starring Richard Burton (one of his few restrained performances), Claire Bloom, and Oskar Werner, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is an unflinching look at the spy business. There are no good guys in this movie, just wretched characters engaged in a ruthless occupation. Ritt’s economical use of dialogue, subdued cinematography, and somber set decoration makes for an intense drama that still holds up.

Movie Trivia: The movie’s first scene at Checkpoint Charlie was filmed on a studio set in Ireland. It bears little resemblance to the street (Friedrichsstraße) where where Checkpoint Charlie actually stands.


Over the years, I’ve seen undesirable neighborhoods in San Francisco, Sacramento, Berlin, and New York City transform because of gentrification; yet, gentrification is a double-edged sword–improvement versus displacement.

Affordable housing advocates often view gentrification as a foe while developers see it as an opportunity to make money and improve a decaying neighborhood. Gut Renovation, a new documentary about gentrification in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) is a case in point. I wish I could recommend Gut Renovation since affordable housing is an issue that needs serious discussion and not just lip service. Unfortunately, Gut Renovation is a one-sided documentary that paints a negative picture of gentrification without offering any workable solutions to the affordable housing crisis.   

Until very recently, Williamsburg was a dirty, crime ridden neighborhood filled with unsavory characters. Today, people are flocking to Williamsburg and displacing the established residents. For better or worse, gentrification has improved the quality of life in Williamsburg: crime is down, public services have improved, and more businesses have moved into the neighborhood. Sure, developers have prospered (what’s wrong with making a buck) and some long-time residents have moved, but change is inevitable. Neighborhoods prosper and others decline. It’s all part of the economic cycle of real estate. Rather than lament the loss of the “old” Williamsburg, Gut Renovation should have focused on finding tenable solutions to a very serious problem facing American cities. 

When a loved one dies, a little bit of yourself dies with them. This is just one theme explored in Michael Haneke’s latest film, AmourAmour is an unsentimental story about love and loss, and how the bounds of love and selfless devotion are tested when an elderly couple find themselves dealing with death. At times, Amour is painful to watch, but Haneke’s skillful and minimal approach to film making elevate this film beyond the schmaltzy stuff that American audiences tend to get. Amour is my choice for film of the year. 

When a loved one dies, a little bit of yourself dies with them. This is just one theme explored in Michael Haneke’s latest film, AmourAmour is an unsentimental story about love and loss, and how the bounds of love and selfless devotion are tested when an elderly couple find themselves dealing with death. At times, Amour is painful to watch, but Haneke’s skillful and minimal approach to film making elevate this film beyond the schmaltzy stuff that American audiences tend to get. Amour is my choice for film of the year.