Monday, 25 September 2017

Flag of the Week: Jamaica


After yesterday's general election in Germany the newspapers are predicting a Jamaica coalition, an expression that must sound confusing to anyone who doesn't closely follow German politics. The reason is that each of the German political parties is assigned a colour. After yesterday's vote six parties will receive seats in the new parliament.

CDU (Black): 246
SPD (Red): 153
AFD (Blue): 94
FDP (Yellow): 80
Linke (Pink): 69
Green (Green): 67

That's a total of 709 seats. In order to rule a coalition needs 355 seats. The current government is a coalition between the CDU and the SPD, a Black-Red coalition, but the SPD has said that it refuses to enter a coalition in the next government, preferring to remain in the opposition.

It's not just a matter of balancing numbers. The political parties have different ideals, so not every combination is possible. The CDU (a centre right party) would never form a coalition with the Linke (a Communist party). The Linke is open to a coalition with the SPD (a centre left party), having already formed coalitions at state level. The FDP sees itself as a pure centrist party, and has formed coalitions with both the CDU and the SPD in the past. The Green party sees itself as left of centre and would prefer a coalition with the SPD, but it's willing to form a coalition with the CDU if compromises are accepted.

Nobody wants to form a coalition with the AFD, because they're considered to be far right.

The coalition touted by the press is CDU (246) + FDP (80) + Green (67), a Black-Yellow-Green coalition with 393 seats. Those are the colours of the Jamaican flag. Now it makes sense, doesn't it?

That's not the only possible coalition. The wildcard in the coalition negotiations is the FDP, who have frequently changed sides when their demands weren't met. In 1982 they put the CDU into power without an election by changing coalition partners mid-term. Nobody can rely on the FDP, as the large parties have learnt from experience.

The SPD could form a coalition government with SPD (153) + Linke (69) + Green (67) + FDP (80), a total of 369 seats. That's a Red-Pink-Green-Yellow coalition; are there any matching flags? This would be a preferable coalition for the Green Party, and the Linke would jump at the opportunity to enter the government. It all depends on the FDP. They have to be wooed with big promises by the large parties.

In its favour, Jamaica has one of the world's most attractive flags. It's also the most unique. With the exception of Scotland, which isn't an independent country (yet), it's the only flag that uses a diagonal cross.

This is probably my last flag of the week feature. After 10 weeks I've already featured the flags that I consider to be the most attractive, in particular Albania and Kiribati. This feature hasn't been received well by my readers. The only feedback that I've received has been negative. It's possible that I shall occasionally post pictures of other flags, but it will no longer be a regular weekly event.

A Hologram for the King (4 Stars)


Sometimes a film slips under the radar. It comes and goes without anyone noticing it was there. The film might have a big star like Tom Hanks, but in the modern world's mass production of films there are just too many for people to see all of them. A $35 million budget and less than $8 million was earned at the box office. That's unfair for a gem like this.

Tom Hanks plays Alan Clay, a salesman who travels to Saudi Arabia to sell a holographic conference system to the king. What he finds when he arrives is beyond his belief. When he visits the "king's city" he finds a building site in the middle of the desert, and he's told that the king hasn't been there for 18 months. There's a shallow front of religiousness; when he asks for a beer he's told that alcohol is illegal, but Saudi businessmen have well stocked drink cabinets in their offices.

Tom's best friend in Saudi Arabia is Youssef, a taxi driver who loves American music. Youssef helps Alan to understand the mysteries of Saudi culture, while giving him a rifle to shoot wolves at night. Nevertheless, Tom stumbles around like a sleep walker, unable to understand the bizarre things that happen around him.


Tom has a business meeting on the fifth floor of an unfinished building. No elevator, so he has to use the stairs. On the way he passes building workers beating up one of their colleagues. Keep moving, Tom, don't get involved.


Western comforts will be offered. Eventually.


In Saudi Arabia even the roads are segregated.


Tom does his best to fit in. The look suits him.


I almost forgot to mention that the film is a love story. When Tom is taken ill he meets a beautiful Saudi Arabian doctor. Is it inappropriate for a doctor to have an affair with her patient? Maybe it is in Europe, but in Saudi Arabia it's allowed. I should consider moving.


I can understand the attraction. She has beautiful eyes.

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Sunday, 24 September 2017

Bound (5 Stars)


It's difficult to believe that when I first watched "Bound" seven years ago I hardly knew Jennifer Tilly. Now I'm her number one fan. I mean that in a good way, of course. I'm not about to go Annie Wilkes on her. I admire her because she's a wonderful actress, she's beautiful, and she's highly intelligent.

In "Bound" Jennifer Tilly plays Violet, a young woman who's the girlfriend of Caesar, a man who works for the Chicago Mafia. His name is deceptive. He's not a crime boss, he's just a small man in a big organisation. The ex-convict Corky (Gina Gershon) moves into the apartment next door. There's an immediate physical attraction, and the two women begin an affair. Maybe the relationship isn't quite so spontaneous. Violet has a plan, and she needs a partner. Caesar has a suitcase with two million dollars which is going to be picked up by the Mafia boss. Violet wants the money for herself, so she can run away and make a new start. She has no prior experience in crime, so she's willing to share the money with Corky.


Even though she was never a criminal, Violet is pure evil. She's willing to kill any number of men to get what she wants. Through it all she projects an image of naive innocence. It's not just Jennifer Tilly's acting skill. She's been blessed with a voice that sounds like a young girl, which sounds so disarming when she plays a bad character.


I can't end this review without mentioning Joe Pantoliano's performance as Caesar. I've only ever seen him in a few roles, but it's enough to convince me that he's a magnificent actor. He's best in roles like this, where he plays a character who is slightly deranged.

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Saturday, 23 September 2017

London has fallen (5 Stars)


This 2016 film is a sequel to "Olympus has fallen", made in 2013. Once more the critics don't get it. It has a 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a site based on the opinions of critics. It has an A- rating on Cinemascore, a site based on the opinions of cinema audiences, which is the second highest rating. It was also a huge box office success. Critics rate films with their pens, while the public rates films with its cash. Who would you rather listen to?

Okay, I'm a critic as well. I'm sitting here pounding the keys of my computer, semi-anonymously, but I'm not a normal critic. In most cases I take the side of the public. That's what I'm doing today by giving "London has fallen" a five star rating, my highest rating. The film is full of fast paced action, first class acting and spectacular special effects.

But what does my nemesis Mark Kermode say? In an interview with BBC Radio 5 he says the film is "utterly terrible", "very boring" and "meat-headed rubbish". He says the special effects are "shriek-inducingly cheap", but by this point he's built up momentum and can't stop piling on the exaggerations. He tells the person interviewing him, "You have played Gameboys that have better special effects". Wow! Was he watching the same film as me? Maybe he had a beer too many in the cinema lounge and walked into the wrong film, so he's really talking about "Carry on Sergeant".

Mark Kermode criticises the script writers because a news report in the film says "Most of the known landmarks in London have been decimated", as if there are unknown landmarks and only a tenth of the known landmarks have been destroyed. Hold on there, Mr. Kermode. First of all, the word "decimate" is used as a synonym for "destroy" today, even though the Latin origin of the word means to destroy a tenth. Secondly, "most of the known landmarks" is a stupid expression, but that's exactly the sort of words used on American television. The script writers got it right.

Some reviewers have criticised the film for whipping up an anti-terrorism frenzy. They have called the film terrorsploitation. That's a beautiful word! All I can say is that if anyone walks out of the cinema and starts to be afraid of terror attacks from every corner, something was wrong with him already. It's a film! If I watch "Night of the Living Dead" I don't get so scared that I'm afraid to leave my house in case zombies are waiting in the garden.

After the big success of the first two films there will  be a third film in the series, "Angel has fallen". Los Angeles? I don't know. Don't listen to Mark Kermode, listen to me. Go and see it. You'll enjoy it.

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Sketch of the Week


Here's a little picture I drew when I was bored. I hope you like it.

Bullet Ballet (3 Stars)


When the world was woken,
Save all unknowing eyes,
And thoughts that once were spoken
Left only to despise,
And when the dawn is breaking,
Look upward to the sky,
If life is so hard to live
Why not die?


Friday, 22 September 2017

Run Lola Run (5 Stars)


This film is generally considered to be the best film ever made in Germany, based on polls held in magazines. A more cynical opinion is that most Germans don't understand it, so they say they like it because they're afraid people will think they're stupid if they don't.

Is the film difficult to understand? On the surface it isn't. I can describe it in one sentence:

"Run Lola Run shows how minor decisions can have wide-reaching consequences for oneself and others".

I could end my review there. That's the only explanation anybody needs who's puzzled by the film. However, there are other themes that run through the film.

One is the concept of parallel universes. I don't know what exactly influenced Tom Tykwer, the director, but I see strong parallels with the stories of Kang the Conqueror in "The Avengers", particularly in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Parallel universes are an integral part of Marvel's comic book mythology, but Kang was more responsible for the creation of parallel universes than anyone else because he frequently travelled back from his home in the future to battle the Avengers. We see an affinity between Lola and her parallel selves, for instance in Lola's second universe she knows how to take the safety catch off a gun, something she learnt in her first universe.

Who is the blind woman? She's someone able to see more than others. She sees the results of minor decisions and intervenes to shape the future.

There's also the influence of God. In Lola's first universe she runs between the nuns, but they ignore her. The the second universe the nuns make room for her and stare at her as she runs between them. In the third universe Lola asks God for help, so the nuns block her path and force her to run into the middle of the road. So, possibly, it's not only our own decisions that shape the future but also God's decisions, based on our requests.

Is there a balance between the parallel universes? In each universe someone lives and someone dies. Is this a coincidence or the way that Tom Tykwer sees fate balancing the universes so that they don't diverge too much?


The biggest problem is that even if we know that our smallest decisions affect the whole world we can't act accordingly. If we knew that good deeds would lead to good results we could lead good lives to make everyone happier. That's not the case, at least not in the way cause and effect are portrayed in the film. Our decisions have effects that are seemingly random from our point of view. If Lola robs a bank the cashier will hook up with a colleague for sado-masochistic games. If Lola doesn't rob the bank the cashier will have a car accident that cripples her. So what's right and what's wrong?


I'm glad I watched "Run Lola Run" today. It's reminded me that it needs a high position when I publish my list of my 50 favourite films.

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Sleeping Beauties (5 Stars)


I'm happy to say that this is the best film I've seen by Dean McKendrick so far. This is the 19th film he's made for Retromedia since 2013, and it's his second erotic fairytale. I really need to do a marathon of his films. Maybe next year.

The film is about a noblewoman somewhere in Europe called Beauty who is engaged to marry Prince William. Beauty is a good name for the actress Sarah Hunter. A spell is cast on her by her jealous best friend Margaret. She pricks her finger on an enchanted rose thorn and falls asleep, supposedly for all eternity. However, 400 years later the castle where she lived is being renovated to be used as a hotel and her body is discovered. Harry, the building constructor, kisses her, and she comes back to life. Harry takes her back to America and lets her stay in his house. By a strange coincidence Harry's wife Peggy looks identical to Margaret. This could have been developed, such as Margaret returning from the grave to further torment Beauty, but the supernatural possibilities are ignored. From this point on the story is only about the rivalry between Harry and his colleague Richard.

I consider this the most sexually arousing film made by Dean McKendrick. The first two sex scenes are the best, the first between Harry and Beauty, the second a bath tub scene between Peggy and Beauty, but the overall standard of the sex scenes is outstanding. As in all of Dean McKendrick's recent films there's a shower scene, but this time the view is partially obscured by being filmed from outside. There have been some complaints from other reviewers who don't like shower scenes, but I find them a highlight of Dean's films.

William Bryant, who plays Harry, amazes me. In his first film for Retromedia, "Cinderella's Hot Night", his acting was dull and lifeless, but in "Sleeping Beauties" he's excellent. Maybe he needed time to warm up, maybe he spent more time practising his lines this time round. Whatever the reason is, he's like a new person.

Andy Long, one of the Retromedia regulars, returns. He always puts on a solid acting performance, and this time he shows he can play a bad guy. To top it off, the awesome Ted Newsom returns as Harry's boss, Mr. Logan. He plays the role straight, but it's difficult not to smile when I see him. He has one of those faces.


Incidentally, where in Europe does Beauty come from? Margaret talks with her about a war against Saxony, suggesting it's in central Europe. Then we see this scene in the town where Harry is working.


The red telephone box immediately identifies the location as England. It's actually the seaside village of Mousehole, at the intersection of Fore Street and North Cliff. I wonder whether this is stock footage or the location of Dean McKendrick's last holiday. If he hasn't been there yet I can strongly recommend it as a place for a relaxing vacation.


But then we see this town scene, immediately recognisable as Prague. That's also a beautiful place for a vacation, though somewhat busier than Mousehole.


Then we see Prince William's castle. This is the only scene I didn't recognise, so I had to search for the castle online. It's a castle just outside Segovia in Spain.

There's one small detail I'd like to correct in the film. Harry is shown reading a 200-year-old book, and he says that he has problems understanding the old English. It shouldn't be a problem for him. The English language has hardly changed for the last 450 years, apart from adding new words. There are only a few words no longer in use, such as "anon", but most people are acquainted with these from watching Shakespeare's plays.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Shanghai Knights (5 Stars)


It's my birthday today, so what should I do? Go out for a meal? Spend the evening in a romantic nightclub? Anyone who thinks I would do these things doesn't know me well enough. There's only one thing I can do to make a good day perfect: I must watch a film!

Since it's my birthday it has to be a good film. I can't take a risk with something I've never watched before. This makes "Shanghai Knights" the ideal choice. I've watched it a few times before, the last time only 18 months ago, but today it hit me just how wonderful it is. It contains Jackie Chan's best comedic fight scenes. He wins all of his fights except one. A pillow fight against sexy girls in a hotel room? Poor Jackie doesn't stand a chance, not even with Owen Wilson at his side. It was an unfair fight, 13 against 2, but the numbers don't matter. One girl could have overcome Owen and Jackie.

"Can you handle us, Jackie?"
This is a globe-trotting adventure, beginning in China and continuing in America, after which the bulk of the story takes place in London.

The film is full of amusing anachronisms, much like an episode of "Xena Warrior Princess", but it still manages to give a realistic picture of life in England in the late 19th Century. We see the contrast between the rich nobility and the poor commoners, the appearance of the first motor vehicles and the terror of Jack the Ripper. This is screenwriting at its best from Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who are best known as the creators and executive producers of the "Smallville" TV series.

A sequel called "Shanghai Dawn" was planned immediately after "Shanghai Knights", but due to Jackie Chan's busy schedule it was never made. Now, after the project has been simmering for 12 years, it looks as if it will finally be made. Let's see if Jackie still has his magic as the Buster Keaton of Kung Fu.

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Blade Runner (3 Stars)


After 35 years a sequel to "Blade Runner" has finally been made. It's planned to be released in the cinemas next month. That's a good enough excuse for me to rewatch the original film for the first time in 20 years.

I only vaguely remembered the film, more the images than the plot. I saw it on television and had no wish to buy it on DVD, which is a sign that I didn't enjoy it much, but I could no longer remember why. I know that many people consider it to be the greatest science fiction film ever made, so I thought it would be worth investing a few Euros in the Blu-ray edition of the Final Cut. This was first released in 2007, so it's not the version that I previously saw, but I assume that this is the best version, since the director Ridley Scott was personally involved in the re-editing.

In the far distant future -- 2019 !!! -- the colonisation of other planets has begun. Artificial humans, called replicants, have been sent to these planets to make them habitable before humans arrive, and to act as slave labour when humans arrive. The replicants are identical to humans in all ways, except for greater intelligence and physical strength, and a complete lack of emotion. They're created as fully developed adults. The artificial intelligence of the replicants sometimes results in a development of emotions, so they've been built with a four year life span. It's illegal for replicants to visit the Earth.

Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, an ex-policeman whose job was to hunt down replicants on Earth who are either fleeing slavery or trying to find ways to extend their lives. The arrival of four extremely dangerous replicants causes his former boss to beg him to take up his job again.

After watching it again, I can see why it didn't appeal to me. The special effects, especially the futuristic views of Los Angeles, look cheap. The project was too adventurous for the technical possibilities of 1982. I can see that "Blade Runner" influenced "The Fifth Element", which succeeded visually due to the superior computer graphics available in 1997.

I don't like the fact that the whole film takes place at night. There's no justification for this in the plot itself.

The story is far too slow and plods from scene to scene. This would be acceptable if the film were building up to something, but even the final showdown is slow. The final conversation between Rick and the replicant Roy reminds me of the confrontation between Captain Willard and Colonel Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now", but it's not as deep. That's probably what I dislike most about "Blade Runner". There's a constant feeling of depth in meaning, but when you look closer it's just an illusion.

I honestly don't see what's so special about the film, but I'm prepared to discuss it with my readers. Please leave comments.

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Cinderella's Hot Night (4 Stars)


After a series of erotic thrillers Dean McKendrick is trying his hand at something else: erotic fairytales. Maybe this shouldn't be seen as a new direction but as a return to form, because the film's end result is strikingly similar to the erotic comedies he's been making since 2013.

Cindy is a student doing an unpaid internship at a company called Universal Imports. Because of a lack of money she tells her boss that she can't afford to pay her rent and needs to leave to get a paid job. He considers her an asset to his company and offers to let her stay with his family. She accepts gladly, but his wife and two daughters don't like her being in the house. Soon after this the boss dies in a plane crash. Cindy remains in the house and is treated as a slave, having to cook and do the housework for the three women.


In the original fairy tale the stepsisters are ugly, but that's not the case in this film. Grace and Sylvia obviously get their good looks from their mother Mona, played by the delectable Beverly Lynne.


The two girls look so sweet that they could melt in your mouth, but don't let their looks deceive you. They're spoilt little rich girls, and they're mean to the core.


Enter Prince Steven from the small European kingdom of Kritonia. He's been doing deals with America with the help of Universal Imports, so he travels to Los Angeles to throw a New Year's Party for all the company employees. Mona is desperate for one of her daughters to marry the prince, since her husband died leaving the family in debt. They don't allow Cindy to go to the party because they think she's too plain and would show them up. What do you think?


Wow! Normally Cindy wears ripped jeans, but this is how she looks after she's given a makeover by her fairy godmother. She wears a mask so that nobody can recognise her. The prince falls in love and dances with her all night, but she has to leave before midnight, leaving her slipper behind.

I think you know the rest of the story.


Prince Steven searches everywhere to find Cindy aka Cinderella, but I would have looked for the fairy godmother instead. Isn't Christine Nguyen the most beautiful fairy you've ever seen?

I'm very happy that "Cinderella's Hot Night" reunites Christine Nguyen and Beverly Lynne. They're two of Retromedia's most beautiful actresses. Most of the other actors are new to Retromedia. Unfortunately Ryan Driller, best known for his role as Superman in Axel Braun's films, only has a brief appearance as the family lawyer.

The sex scenes are of the high quality that we expect from Dean McKendrick. I particularly enjoyed the shower scene with Karlie Montana as Cindy, in which she managed to express her sadness while showering. Sexuality and emotional depth don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Black Sheep (4 Stars)


New Zealand has a population of almost five million people and thirty million sheep. Imagine if the peaceful sheep turned into vicious flesh-eaters. The humans on the islands wouldn't stand a chance.

This film, made in 2006, is unlike most other low budget horror films. It has amazing production quality and realistic special effects. The usually cute sheep turn into fearsome brutes that stampede and attack any people they encounter.


There's a serious message which is pushed in the closing scene. It's wrong to genetically engineer sheep -- or any other animals -- because we're tipping the ecological balance carefully created by Mother Nature over millions of years. My reaction to this message is to shrug my shoulders. It's not that I disagree, I just think that the message is in the wrong place. Only Germans watch films to be educated. I watch films to be excited, terrified or amused, or any combination of the three.

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Dangerous Liaisons [2003] (4 Stars)


I've been trying to get my hands on this film for years, and now I've finally succeeded. It's the 16th film starring Leelee Sobieski, made in 2003, whatever I might have written in my list in the sidebar. I knew about the film, of course, but I forgot to leave a gap for it. When I have time I'll go back and renumber the list.

"Les Liaisons Dangereuses", to give the film its original name, was made as a three-part mini-series for French television, but it was later edited into a film. I watched the film version today, and if my information is correct a lot was cut out in the editing. The original mini-series was 252 minutes long, 3 x 84 minutes. The film is only 189 minutes. Even if the start and end credits and short recaps aren't counted, it still means that at least 40 minutes of the film itself is missing. I can hazard a guess, because one of the important plot details is dealt with very briefly in what I saw today. I wish I could get my hands on the original mini-series to compare.

This is one of two films that Leelee Sobieski made in French. The other is "The Idol", made a year earlier. This was possible because she was educated bilingually and can speak fluent French. The film I watched today has been dubbed into English, and fortunately she dubbed her own voice.

The film is based on the 1782 French novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Supposedly it's one of the world's most often filmed novels, having inspired more than a dozen films in different languages. The only two novels that have been filmed more often are "Tristan and Isolde" (about 20 times) and "Dracula" (more than 50 times). I'm only talking about adaptations of Bram Stoker's original novel, of course. There are hundreds of films that include the character of Count Dracula in newly written stories.


The original novel is set in the palaces of the kings and noblemen of France in the 18th Century. This adaptation retains the names of the principal characters, Valmont, Merteuil, Tourvel and Volanges, but they're aristocrats living in Paris and St. Tropez in the 1960's. Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil is jealous because her lover has left her to marry a much younger woman, Cecile de Volanges. She's closely acquainted with an infamous womaniser, Sebastian de Volmont, so she asks him to seduce Cecile and get her pregnant before the wedding. Sebastian agrees in principle and says he will begin after a two-week holiday, but he stays away longer because he falls in love with his married cousin, Marie de Tourvel. Growing impatient, Isabelle hires a handsome young violinist, Raphael Danceny, supposedly as a music teacher, but actually to tempt her away from her fiancé. Cecile and Raphael do fall in love with one another, but Raphael is too much of a gentleman to consummate the relationship, so Isabelle begs Sebastian to finally seduce Cecile.

Sebastian has immediate success with Cecile, but Marie resists his advances. This leads to the absurd situation that he pursues Marie romantically every day while sleeping with Cecile every night. Eventually Raphael finds out about Cecile's "affair" with Sebastian and leaves her to begin a relationship with Isabelle.

That's just a brief summary of the plot. So many other things happen that you need a scorecard to keep up. This is an intricate drama of epic proportions. I can understand why the story still fascinates people all over the world 235 years after it was written.

Don't be too harsh on Sebastian. Like most womanisers, he's a slave to his own desires. It's not just a sexual matter, it's also about his pride. After years of successes with women he most desires the women who say No to him. That's the reason he wants Marie so much. When she finally falls for him he loses interest. He leads a lonely life.

The really evil person in the story is Isabelle de Merteuil. She's willing to destroy the lives of any number of people in order to avenge being insulted.

Needless to say, the main actors, Catherine Deneuve, Rupert Everett and Nastassja Kinski all play their roles perfectly. However, they're overshadowed by the prformance of Leelee Sobieski as Cecile de Volanges. She can never do anything wrong.

The Adjustment Bureau (5 Stars)


Today is only the second time I've watched "The Adjustment Bureau". I'm not sure why I've waited so long. Did I forget what a good film it is? Maybe the problem is that I don't like Matt Damon as an actor. I'm not saying he's a bad actor, it's just a personal antipathy that I have based on the way he looks. Doesn't it ever happen to you? You meet someone and you immediately like or dislike that person based on superficial details like their clothes or the shape of their nose. It's not a problem with Matt Damon, it's a problem with me. Sometimes I'm superficial, and rather than deny it I have to face up to it.

Having said that, I have to admit that Matt is the best person for the role of David Norris. He looks just like how I would expect a young Congressman to look, especially a Congressman planning to become a Senator and maybe even the President.


Matt Damon as President? We could do a lot worse.

The main reason why I decided to rewatch the film today is because my original review has become popular over the last few weeks. Today it's the second most popular post in my blog, based on the number of readers. I'm not sure why. It's taken my readers four years to discover this post, but I've just reread it myself and I have to agree that it's one of my best posts. That causes me problems today, because I don't think I can write anything better.

Please click here to read my first review. It sparked a short conversation with my friend Elizabeth. I wish other people had joined in, because the film deals with important questions about the nature of free will. These are questions primarily for those who believe in God, but it's also an interesting subject for atheists and freethinkers.


Rather than review the film today I'll just quote the speech on free will held by the sinister Mr. Thompson, as played by Terence Stamp, probably one of the best actors alive today.

"We actually tried free will before. After taking you from hunting and gathering to the height of the Roman Empire we stepped back to see how you'd do on your own. You gave us the Dark Ages for five centuries, until finally we decided we should come back in. The Chairman thought that maybe we just needed to do a better job with teaching you how to ride a bike before taking the training wheels off again. So we gave you the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution. For six hundred years we taught you to control your impulses with reason, then in 1910 we stepped back again. Within fifty years you'd brought us World War I, the Depression, Fascism, the Holocaust and capped it off by bringing the entire planet to the brink of destruction in the Cuban Missile Crisis. At that point a decision was taken to step back in again before you did something that even we couldn't fix. You don't have free will, you have the appearance of free will".

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Monday, 18 September 2017

The Circle (4 Stars)


This is a good film that deals with important issues.

Mae Holland (Emma Watson) applies for a job at a large Internet company called The Circle. At first she treats it as only a job, but after a few weeks she's criticised for not taking part in the company's after-hours and weekend activities. It's expected that The Circle should be her whole life. She begins to get more involved with the social life surrounding the company, and she finds that she enjoys it.

The Circle is a company that is seeking 100% transparency, both on the Internet and in real life. "Secrets are lies" becomes a company slogan. Small video cameras are placed all over the world which are monitored at The Circle's headquarters. Mae volunteers to be the first person to let herself be monitored 24 hours a day. Almost 24 hours. She's allowed a three minute break when she goes to the bathroom. People all over the world observe her with voyeuristic pleasure.

Mae is completely in agreement with the company's goals, and she wants The Circle to be given more power, which pleases The Circle's founder and chief executive officer, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks).


There's so much that be said about the implications of the film that I hardly know where to start. The film is a social commentary on the use and the abuse of the Internet today, but it's also a warning about what could happen in the future.

In the 1940's George Orwell wrote a book called "1984", in which he predicted that a world would come in which the state, "Big Brother", would monitor everything that people do. He was wrong. In today's world the Internet and social media encourage people to allow themselves to be monitored. So many people, mostly young people, live their lives on the Internet. They post messages to Facebook many times a day to let their friends know where they are and what they're doing. Sometimes this goes to ridiculous extremes, too much information, as in the case of a friend of mine.

Post 1: "I'm about to go to the toy store".

Post 2: "I'm caught in a traffic jam".

Post 3: "I'm almost at the toy store now".

Post 4: "Now I'm in the toy store".

This might seem ridiculous, but my friend considered it natural to make these posts.

Another example of potentially unwanted information is the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine. President Putin insists that no Russian soldiers are invading Ukraine and it's just a civil war. However, Russian soldiers have been posting photos of themselves in Facebook with messages like, "My assignment to Ukraine will soon be over". Vladimir Putin lies, the Internet doesn't.

Would I like my whole life to be recorded? Yes, definitely! My earliest memories are when I was four years old, and even my later memories, up to 14, are patchy. I wish I had a recording of my whole life so that I could be reminded of everything that happened from my birth onwards. The recording would be for me, primarily, but I'd like to be able to show incidents to other people when they don't believe what I tell them.

Would I like this recording to be publicly available? That's a difficult question. I don't mind the mistakes that I've made in my life being publicised, as long as they're shown in context. I believe that whatever I did that was wrong was motivated by good intentions. Most things, anyway. When I was 11 I broke an ornament in my uncle's house, and I hid it under a chair rather than admit it. When I was six I kicked a dirty football against my mother's washing on the clothesline and denied it was me. That's the first time I've ever admitted these two wrong-doings, and I feel so free! There might be other similar transgressions that I can't remember.

I'm not ashamed of my sexual fetishes being publicised. It's not a problem for me, because none of them are illegal. Or are they? A few years ago the pornography laws were tightened in England. Among other things, films that feature face-sitting were made illegal. I was quite horrified when the changes happened. Reading between the lines, it seemed that all domination practises that appear to be non-consensual were outlawed. Could I be arrested if my life's recording showed the many times that women have suffocated me by sitting on my face?

It's not just about me, of course. There are people who have led less moral lives than me. A thief wouldn't want his thefts made public. A paedophile wouldn't want recordings of himself looking at child pornography to be revealed. But from my point of view, activities like that should be revealed to the world. Criminal acts shouldn't be hidden.

Maybe a compromise could be made. A person's whole life could be recorded for the public, with the option to block certain areas. For instance, a whole house or certain rooms could be excluded from being monitored. It's still possible for crimes to be committed. For instance, a man can kill his wife within his own home. However, it would still be enough to identify the crime. If the wife is missing, the recording would show when she last entered the house and that she didn't leave again, so the police can check if she's been buried in the cellar.

The biggest problem of absolute transparency is the possibility of abuse by a totalitarian regime. A government that expects absolute obedience might punish citizens who visit opposition rallies. There are endless dangers.

This is a subject I'd like to discuss with my readers. Please leave comments.

Stuttgart Fantasy Film Festival 2017


This is a list of the 51 films shown at this year's Fantasy Film Festival, together with a link to the review, and a rating if I saw the film.

1. "IT Chapter One", America, 5
2. "The Mermaid", China, 4
3. "Shockwave", China, 4½
4. "Rendel", Finland, 4
5. "Super Dark Times", America, 2
6. "Raw", France, 2
7. "Trench 11", Canada
8. "Bitch", America, 4
9. "Vidar the Vampire", Norway, 4
10. "Blade of the Immortal", Japan, 5
11. "The Autopsy of Jane Doe", America, 5
12. "Crucifixion", UK, 2
13. "Double Date", UK
14. "Mayhem", America, 4
15. "Sicilian Ghost Story", Italy, 3
16. "47 Meters Down", UK, 2½
17. "Night of the Virgin", Spain
18. "Land of the Little People", Israel, 3
19. "Psychopaths", America, 1
20. "Jungle", Australia, 4½
21. "Hounds of Love", Australia, 3
22. "Have a nice day", China
23. "Bad Match", America, 4
24. "Marlina the Murderer", Indonesia, 5
25. "Hatchet 4", America, 4
26. "Radius", Canada, 2
27. "M.F.A.", America
28. "Darkland", Denmark, 4
29. "Playground", Poland, 1
30. "Colossal", Canada, 4½
31. "My Friend Dahmer", America, 4
32. "Figaros Wolfe", Germany
33. "Black Hollow Cage", Spain, 4½
34. "Reset", China, 4½
35. "Tragedy Girls", America, 5
36. "Killing Ground", Australia, 3
37. "Schneeflöckchen", Germany
38. "The Strange Ones", America, 1½
39. "Memoirs of a Murderer", Japan, 3
40. "It comes at night", America, 2
41. "Game of Death", America, 4
42. "Replace", Germany
43. "Fashionista", America, 4
44. "It came from the desert", Finland, 4½
45. "Veronica", Spain, 3
46. "68 Kill", America, 4½
47. "Kuso", America
48. "This is your death", America
49. "I remember you", Iceland, 4
50. "The Vault", America, 4
51. "The Villainess", South Korea, 5


As you can see, the majority of the films were made in America. Here are the statistics, so that you don't have to count for yourself.

19 films: America
4 films: China
3 films: Australia, Canada, UK, Germany, Spain
2 films: Japan, Finland
1 film: Denmark, France, Iceland, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, South Korea