Belgica * Felix van Groeningen (2016)

Another good film from Flanders!

A young man starts a pub and when his older brother joins the effort, they soon enlarge the cafe to a successful nightclub. With the help of a load of friends they want to have an open club in which everybody is welcome and in which any type of music can be played or performed.

The Flemish language makes the film funny even when there are no jokes, but in basis the film is a drama about how friendship is tested when what starts as a fun project becomes larger and needs to be managed. Especially the relation between the two brothers makes a large part of the story.

The film is good and entertaining. There is quite a lot of interesting music in it too, so I need to see if I can find out if these are existing bands.

Educazione Siberiana * Gabriele Salvatores (2013)

In this moody film John Malkovich plays the pater familias of a Siberian (criminal) family that has no respect for Russian law (enforcement), but has a strict code of its own.

The international title of this film seems to be “Deadly Code”, but the original title rather seems to mean “Siberian education”, which covers the film a lot better. We mostly follow a small group of youngsters growing up in a small, Siberian town, educated about the people’s ways by the grandfather of one of the boys. They are fed hatred for the regime and harsch ways of protecting their own ways.

The film is told in two stories, which are actually the same, but playing in different times, both of which give a peek into Russian ‘mafia’ and law enforcement.

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil * Clint Eastwood (1997)

Eastwood takes his time to tell the story of the writer John Celso (John Cusack) who would initially cover the Christmas party of the rich Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey), but the project becomes a book about Williams shooting Billy Hanson (Jude Law).

In a slow pace the story unfolds and characters develop. There is plenty of time for side-stories and after a while a more social theme bubbles up (almost) pushing the main story to the background.

The film has got some odd characters bringing some humor to it.

“Midnight” is certainly a good film, but not really my kind. 155 Minutes is fairly long, but it does not become boring. It is the kind of film to just watch some time when you have a night to fill.

Timecop: The Berlin Connection * Steve Boyum (2003)

Not even released in the year in which the original film played, another director comes with a follow-up of the film that was released almost a decade earlier. Safe from being based on the same comic, “Timecop 2” has little to do with the original.

Of course the story is similar. A special team has the task to prevent people from going back in history and change the present/future. The title refers to difficulties of being in a position to change the past and to decide to not do it. That very moment is the start for the whole film in which two time-travelers fight each other through time.

The whole notion of (not) changing the past, traveling back and forth, etc. has been worked out into further extremes than the original film, a bit too much so here and there. “The Berlin Connection” makes an alright scifi action with recognisable elements from its predecessor (most notably: martial arts), but it is a wholly different film with (like I said) a different director, different actors, etc.

The film is not really a masterpiece, but the 4.9 on IMDb sounds a bit low (it is about my own rating too though). Then again, part 1 also only gets a 5.8. Not that that is a masterpiece, but that is more of a classic than the follow-up will be (my guess).

Timecop * Peter Hyams (1994)

I do not remember having seen, or even heard of, this film before. Perhaps this is because scifi not really was my genre in these days. Now I ran into the film second hand and I got curious if this would a 1980’ies scifi action spectacle.

The film is not as old as I thought, but still old enough to look old-fashioned. It has elements of the films of these days such as the obligatory sex scene and of course the clothing looks wonderfully like that of these days. What is also funny that the director looked 10 years ahead and set his film in 2004 with cranky-looking self-driving cars, but also voice-activated television.

Jean Claude van Damme plays the pretty boy Walker, a martial arts policeman, who is recruited for a new force that can travel back in time to prevent the bad guys from changing history in their course. This results in a amusing film that does not really try to thrive on special effects that nowadays would look dated, but rather a well thought-through story that unfolds nicely. Not even is everything chewed out so that the viewer does not have to think for himself, some clues you actually have to figure out for yourself.

Of course the film looks somewhat dated, but not so much, and it is good enough, that you should not (re)watch it as a classic of decades hence.

Import/Export * Ulrich Seidl (2007)

In this in-your-face film we follow two persons. Olga is an Ukrainian young woman who has a hard time raising the money she needs to take care of her baby and her mother. Besides her job at a hospital, Olga pursues other lines of work and eventually tries her luck in Wien/Vienna.

In Wien, Paul has a similarly hard life with debts and unemployment, His inflammatory character does not help. In the end, he ends up in… Ukraine.

In long and minimalist scenes shows the bleak lives of both youngsters with confrontational details. Indeed, not exactly a feel-good-movie. It is not like “Import/Export” is a depressive film though. One you have to be in the mood for to watch perhaps though.

Silent Hill * Christophe Gans (2006)

Hm, “Silent Hill” makes me ‘limping on two thoughts’. On one hand it is too much of a Hollywood horror, on the other there are elements to it that are interesting. Worked out better, “Silent Hill” could have been a lot better.

In a weak start, Rose chases after he sleepwalking daughter Sharon who sometimes mentions “Silent Hill” in her nightmares. Rose finds out that Silent Hill is a town and decides to take her daughter there in the hope that visiting the village will take away the nightmares.

“Silent Hill” proves to be a ghost-town where some disaster happened. The gloomy scenes of darkness entering the village are well done. The darkness is a bit corny, but there are some good scenes. Too bad that both the main character (Rose) and the actress playing that part (Radha Mitchell) are pretty annoying and the story has some very unlikely elements in which Rose seems to keep forgetting what she encountered earlier.

Better about the film is that it does not explain much and that the story does not ‘add up’ leaving it open to the speculations of the viewers. I do not know if the audience of a typical Hollywood horror is up for that though.

Concluding I must say that “Silent Hill” has some descent scenes and good elements, but the weak points overshadow the film.

American Horror Story Freak Show (series) * Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 4 2015)

The fourth season of “American Horror Story” is of the same level as the first. Nice, but not really more than that. After the great season 2 and the good season 3, follows another ‘alright’ season. And there appear to be 9 seasons planned! I wonder if the makers keep going up and down. That would make quite an ordeal deciding if I want to see them all.

As the title suggests we follow a “freak show”, a circus of people with physical deformities. The story is mostly a drama (soap) with people making friends and arguing. Shorter and longer extra stories bring horror elements. It is indeed fun to see actors from other seasons in wholly different, or rather very comparative roles.
The main character is again played by Jessica Lange and her part is not unlike the previous series. Other actors have larger or smaller parts, but most actors return to “Freak Show” at some point. There are a few big parts played by actors that do not seem to return to the series though.

Perhaps, should you not have seen the series, it could be an idea to not just watch them in chronological order. The stories of each season has nothing to do with the other, so you could also just pick the good seasons. Not that the first and fourth season are bad or boring, but they are nothing compared the second. Season 4 does have great opening titles though.

Snowden * Oliver Stone (2016)

Is it not a bit early to already make a film about Edward Snowden? Did Stone want to make sure he would be the first or is the film meant to financially support Snowden? On the other hand, maybe the film already comes too late.

The film tells a story we all heard about. Edward Snowden is the most famous person to leak classified information. He rose in governmental security agencies and then gets second thoughts on the enormous scale of information that these agencies gather of the general public and how easy it is to stick ones nose in the most intimate details of a persons life. Snowden decides to gather information to back up his story and blow the whistle hard.

The film is set around the meetings with journalists that Snowden set up in a hotel in Hong Kong in 2013 and the rest of the story is told in flash-back. This story is well-known and I must say that I expected a bit more ‘level’ of Oliver Stone. The film does not really manage to set the atmosphere of suppression and paranoia that the story needs and Snowdens appointments do not really raise ‘WTF reactions’, which should make ‘the general public’ raise against the governments that do that to us. The film is actually just a mediocre thriller around a story that we already knew. Perhaps the dismay that Snowdens revealings originally gave already ebbed away and the film does not manage to bring it back.

Maybe the film does not come too early (Snowden still lives in Moskou and never came to answer for himself, so the end is untold), but too late (little probably changed, but who really cares?).

We Are What We Are * Jim Mickle (2013)

So is this the remake of “Somos Le Que Hay” (2010)? The Spanish film has been on my wish-list for quite a while and I did not want to watch the remake, but perhaps I put the remake on my wish-list afterall because I cannot seem to find a way to see the original.

Both films have a ‘below 6’ on IMDb.com and I must say, for this remake this is very just. It starts as a descent, nicely built-up thriller with an unfolding story. Then the number of ‘yeah right moments’ increase and the film works towards a preposterously awful end. I guess this end is supposed to be shocking or surprising, but it is so corny that neither works.

In short the story. We follow a family that is much on its own. When the mother dies, the eldest daughter is supposed to take over certain responsibilities. The viewer gets a peek into the family’s dark secret.

With a better written ending this could have been a descent film, but now it is not.

Maria Full Of Grace * Joshua Marston (2004)

The subject of the film was probably very actual at the time it came out (it probably still is, but no longer to the media). We follow Maria from the title, a young woman not having a too easy life in Colombia. When she looses her hard job at a flower growing company, she soon finds another: drug trafficking.

In Dutch we have a word for these people: “bolletjesslikker”. It literally means “globules swallower” and that is exactly what they do. (In English these people are referred to as “drug mules”.) Maria first practices with grapes and when the day comes, she gets 23 globules with cocaine to swallow before she is put on a plane to New York.

“Maria Full Of Grace” shows how people come to get into the trade, what the travel is like and what type of world they generally start to move in. It is a drama with a few thriller elements. A descent film, but not one that you would need to put up high on your list if you ask me.

Anatomie * Stefan Ruzowitzky (2000)

A rather unconvincing thriller in which the promising medicine student Paula (Franka Potente) is selected to study anatomy at the pretentious university of Heidelberg.

The film is mostly occupied by students and seems to aim at that very group with typical humor, a sexually active blonde, even the tension is somewhat typically ‘just-not-teen-anymore’. The subject of course also lends itself for cheap humor. A female student discovers the penis and drops it on the floor. Male students make pranks for their female colleagues.

Another easy bridge from the subject is towards the thriller / horror genre. When a body proves to be of somebody Paula knew she starts to investigate and runs in a dark lodge (with Freemasonry symbolism) operating within the university. With no surprises she is led into the hands of these people.

Nope, “Anatomie” is not a particularly good film. Not boring either, but more of the level of ‘perhaps on TV some time’.

The Infiltrator * Brad Furman (2016)

Robert Mazur (played by Bryan “Heisenberg” Cranston) fights drug trafficking in Florida, infiltrating in the organisations he is after. When he picks up the idea to follow the money rather than the drugs, he is soon playing in the ‘major league’ all the way up to the level of Pablo Escobar whom we all know because of the popular series “Narcos” (but more has been filmed around this mans life).

This ‘major league’ is quite above Mazur’s head whose ‘real life’ and undercover life start to run through each other.

“The Infiltrator” is an 1980’ies looking film based on true events, like we saw more of in these days. It makes a descent thriller about a man working his way into the relentless world of drug-related criminality.

T2 Trainspotting * Danny Boyle (2017)

20 Years after the original film, the director rattled up the original crew to make a ’20 years after’. Everybody indeed is 20 years older and the story also plays 20 years after the first film. Not much script is wasted as to what happened to the characters in these 20 years though.

Renton moved to Amsterdam with the money he stole from his buddies at the end of the first film. Begbie spent all these years in jail and Spud and Sick Boy just stayed where they always lived. Then Renton returns to Edinburgh. His old buddies are, of course, not happy with him leaving with their money. The betrayal has not worn. Especially’s Begbie’s hatred has only grown with 20 years in jail and he was not an easy person to begin with.

This is used as an umbrella for a film that sometimes reminds of the first film (especially in the beginning), but there is more drama than I remember of 20 years ago. There is some of the gory humor again, but much less drug infused crazyness.

The acting is good, the story less so (a couple of odd mistakes), but overall “T2” is highly entertaining, especially for people who know the first film, since there are many references, flashbacks and inside jokes that will remain unclear to people whose first Trainspotting this is.

No need to see it on the big screen though, but when you like the first film, “T2” will probably not disappoint you.

Midnight Special * Jeff Nichols (2016)

It was about time that I saw a good, weird film again. There have been way too few of these recently.

“Midnight Special” is a film that you should not know too much about before you see it. It has a wonderfully unfolding story that is obviously written to put the viewer on the wrong track. This works quite well. Each time the story gets a weirder layer. The pompous fantasy ‘conclusion’ is a bit too much for my liking, but the film is very well done. The few characters in it do not so much develop, but unfold (together with the story).

The film does not get as weird as films can get, but I guess you have to appreciate strange films to enjoy this one. It has this somewhat melancholic atmosphere that other films of Jeff Nichols have, but there is action, drama, thriller and fantasy and all that pretty well done.

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