Star Trek: Beyond * Justin Lin (2016)

It is starting to seem as if I like sci-fi, while in fact I am just curious to see what they would make of a contemporary Star Trek film. Like with the last Star Wars this Star Trek is “based on characters created by…”. It has little to do with what I remember of Star Trek.

We have Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, but are they supposed to be children of the original characters? In a too rapid ‘intro’ we learn about the spaceship Enterprice and the world the crew lives in. The ship is sent on a rescue mission and they end up fighting a dark enemy in an unknown area of “the nebula”.

The film has humor that does not really work (in the beginning almost on ‘screwball’ level), drama that does not really work and mostly seems to want to impress as a space spectacle with star wars, but… it does not really work.

What remains is a weak film with a few elements that you may know from the old films.

The Incredible Hulk * Louis Leterrier (2008)

I do not remember much of the old Hulk films (or were it series?), but I got curious about this new one because of its star-team. “The Incredible Hulk” turned out to be but a Hollywood spectacle.

Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) was a scientist experimenting for the army with the creation of a super soldier. He conducted the investigation in commissioned by General Ross (William Hurt) and together with the generals daughter Betty (Liv Taylor). Of course the experiment ran out of hand and we find Banner fleeing from the general trying to control his anger that induces his ‘Hulkness’. Of course he is helped by Betty.

The general is aided in his search by Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) who tries to fight the Hulk with his own weapons. This of course leads to a lot of collateral damage, allowing the director to make a spectacle. The story unfields along predictable lines leading towards a predictable end.

Weak, at best “The Incredible Hulk” is somewhat amusing.

Star Wars: Rogue One * Gareth Edwards (2016)

“Based on characters created by Georges Lucas”. That about sums it up. Actually, there are not that many Lucas characters in “Rogue One”, some Troopers and Vader, but the film is entirely wrapped around new characters (to me at least). Just like with the previous Star Wars film, the story is very thin, just an excuse for sci-fi action almost.

In an almost 007-like manner we have a good man who apparently ran bad, leaving behind a daughter who gets caught up by the resistance. The bad guys create a weapon to destroy their enemies and the good guys come to blow it up.

Even though the film is 135 minutes and there is not much of a story, that story is not even ‘wrapped up’, so I guess there will be a “Rogue Two” within a couple of years.

I saw the film in iMax 3D. That sometimes looked nice, but mostly did not add much. Also I wonder why after so many years of 3D, it still does not look better as it does.

“Rogue One” is an entertaining sci-fi spectacle, good enough to watch some time, but there is no need to rush.

The Boondock Saints * Troy Duffy (1999)

Before Snatch there apparently already were hip, foul-mouthed, humorous, action-crime films. “The Boondock Saints” is such a film. Vague, very violent, with elaborate dialogues, black humor and weird characters. Some pretty vague scenes even.

Two young brothers accidentally or not, kill criminals in the city of Boston. An FBI investigator (Willem Dafou) sets out to investigate all these bloody killings. In a cut-up, flashback type of style, the killings and their investigations are told.’

Not a masterpiece, but highly amusing.

Miami Vice * Michael Mann (2006)

It is not like I was a big fan of the series, but this film made it to my watch-list nonetheless. Perhaps it was because Colin Farrell plays Sonny Crockett? Farrell, who looks exactly like he does in “True Detective” by the way.

The film is based on the 1980’ies TV-series. Indeed there are only elements that are used. Of course we have Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs who are hip crime-fighters in Miami, the first of which drives a fast car. Then there are the palm-trees and boats, but these are the only similarities that I remember.

Crockett and Tubbs are hired to infiltrate a big drug-cartel and they decide to be transporters. Even though the film lasts 135 minutes, it looks like the story had to be crammed into the length of a film. In the first half of the film it is a descent action film with a high speed. After a while it seems to be supposed to become more of a thriller with some drama and that worked out a lot less good. I also wonder why the director used so much time for fairly boring sex-scenes.

The result is an average Hollywood action film with a few elements that people who know the series will recognise.

The Deep End * Scott McGehee (2001)

In this alright drama Tilda Swinton plays an overly protective mother who goes way too far to protect her gay son. When things are bad enough already, they can get worse. And worse.

“The Deep End” is, like I said, an alright film. I am not sure how it came on my watchlist. Besides Swinton I see no ‘special’ actors and the director does not seem to have made a film that I really like. “The Deep End” is more of the level of: good to watch when it is on TV on a night you have nothing better to do.

Road To Perdition * Sam Mendes (2002)

A nothing special, but descent Hollywood production.

In the 1930’ies USA a family runs a liquor factory and they do so fairly roughly. Michael Sullivan (a good Tom Hanks) does the dirty work, but then becomes the subject of dirty work himself.

The story unfolds unsurprisingly, but nicely. The atmosphere is good as is the camera work.

“Road To Perdition” is a good film without surprises or without being ‘special’. No waste of time, but nothing to put high on your watch-list. It features a young Daniel Graig and Jude Law by the way.

Vikings (series, season 2) * Michael Hirst (2014)

Season 1 did not really convince me, but a year and a half after I saw it, I still got myself season 2.

Well, season 2 is not really much better than I remember number 1, but I would not rate it 1,5 stars. Season 2 is more historical and less based on myths and sagas. It mostly tells the story of Lothbrok raising in power, travelling to England and making friends and enemies. Story-wise season 2 is more of a soap opera with more focus on the relations between people.

I still cannot say that I really like the series. I still might some day watch the third series, but they did not come high up my list after watching the first two.

El Abrazo De La Serpiente * Ciro Guerra (2015)

I found this film because it features the Belgian actor Jan Bijvoet. I have seen Bijvoet in a few smaller and weird parts, but in this film he is one of the main characters.

“Embrace of the serpent” actually tells two stories. Bijvoet plays the scholar Theo who spends much of his life in the Amazon rainforests to investigate the people who live their and the things that grow there. During his travels he built good bonds with some locals. When he gets sick he is escorted to “the wandering shaman” who takes him to the mountains where the Gods reside in order to find a special plant to cure Theo.

The other story plays many years later. Evan follows Theo’s tracks to look for the same cure. He travels with the same shaman.

In both stories there are an open-minded Westerner who travels with a native and an ‘in between’ (a native who has lived most of his life with Westerner). Of course cultures clash, but all parties learn from each other.

The story may not be very original, but it is based on true events, so nothing can be said about that. The time of adventure films in exotic cultures is mostly something of a decade or two ago, but Guerra managed to make a descent contemporary one.

The Man Who Knew Infinity * Matt Brown (2015)

A bit of a dull film about a young and brilliant mathematician from India who tries to get his theories out into the world. After much effort he is picked up by two professors in the UK who have him come over to the very university where also Newton made his discoveries.

The first world war is developing and Ramanujan learns that it is not easy to live in a wholly different country. His divinely inspired maths clash with the rigorous rational approach at Trinity College, but as Ramanujan and professor Hardy start to learn a bit of each other’s culture, things become more favorable.

I have the feeling that the director tried to give the film a bit of a Bollywood feel. It is somewhat ‘soft’ and overly dramatic, too ‘sweet’ so to say. The film tells a nice story, but the film itself does not reach above the level of ‘nice’.

10 Cloverfield Lane * Dan Trachtenberg (2016)

When fleeing her boyfriend, Michelle is involved in a car accident after which she wakes up in a bunker run by Howard (John Goodman).

Trachtenberg managed fairly well to have an evolving story that both surprises and lives up to expectations. What is more, as crazy as Howard seems, as crazy the film gets. It is better to not know too much of the story before you watch this film.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is not a terribly good film, but it is entertaining and fairly original.

Alice Through The Looking Glass * James Bobin (2016)

Johnny Depp returns to Alice’s wonderland. This film is an obvious sequel to Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” from 2010. The actors are largely the same as are the way things look. Story-wise Bobin’s film is a bit of a prequel explaining the youth of the hatter and the reason for the Red Queen’s head-size.

“Alice Through The Looking Glass” is amusing, but never reaches the level of Burton’s film. It has the usual Disney mix of children’s and adult’s humor, adventure and weird characters (such as Sacha -Borat- Cohen as Time).

An amusing watch, but not a must-see.

Hardcore Henry * Ilya Naishuller (2015)

Wooha, cult! “Hardcore Henry” is a very fast, very violent and very original film. It is a bit of a B-film, in style anyway, with a corny story and corny dialogues, all only to be able to make bloody scenes and grim humour. The film looks like a first person shooting game, shot through the eyes of Henry. Fun to see, but I find these constantly moving cameras somewhat sickeningly.

Henry wakes up in some dystopian, futuristic Russia. He proves to be some half man / half robot fighter not knowing who his allies are (if he has any). He is tossed between his ‘wife’ and some hippy resistance group, constantly getting assignments to fight somebody. The childish bad guy keeps popping up with his robot army allowing the director to make a load of chasing and (huge) fighting scenes.

“Hardcore Henry” is a bloody violent adrenaline rush with fast music. A highly amusing full-length debut of Naishuller.

Self/less * Tarsem Singh (2015)

A rich, old and sick businessman runs into a company that can transplant his mind to a younger body. He is promised that the body is genetically manufactured.

It soon becomes clear, though, that his mind is transplanted into the body of another person whose mind also still ‘resides’ in the body. This somewhat unlikely scenario is worked out alright to make a bit of a thriller about a man hunted by a company that wants to keep some secrets.

The film has many drama and some thriller elements. It is not worked out into an overly elaborate story like we see so often nowadays. It makes a fair drama thriller.

American Horror Story Coven * Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 3 2013)

The second season of “American Horror Story” was great, so I was curious what the third season would be like. The story this time is about a home for young witches. Jessica Lange has a part comparable to the previous season. Fitting with the ‘concept’ of the series, there are other actors from previous seasons that return, such as Evan Peters, Sarah Poulson and Frances Conroy.

Cordelia Foxx runs a school for young witches because she fears that witches will die out on current times so she wants to bring them together and train them. Her school is not big, just a few young ladies. Cordelia’s mother (Fiona, played by Lange) is “the supreme” and pretty much a despot. The whole series circle around “the next supreme”. Who will it be?
Then there are a few story lines. There is a competitive group of witches, a voodoo-group around Marie Laveau.
Laveau took revenge on Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a brutal Renaissance landlady whose character brings the topic of racism violently into the story. LaLaurie makes a wonderfully weird element to the story that allowed the creators of the series some grim humor.
The series contain brilliant and weird episodes not unlike “Asylum”, but also teeny-witchy epioses. Especially the final episode is awful.

Overall I think that this third season is fairly good, but it has too many weak episodes to be as good as season 2. It is weirder than season 1, but that season is more ‘consistent in level’. Season 3 has more highs and lows and the highs make this season more ‘watch-worthy’ than the opening season in my opinion.

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