Chugyeogja – Hong-jin Na (2008)

“The Chaser” is an entertaining film from the far East. A pimp thinks somebody kidnaps and sells his girls. When he sends out his last girl, he thinks he has an idea about whom is responsible for the kidnappings, so he goes out for a chase.

“Chugyeogja” contains the usual elements for this type of film. Black humor, bloody violence, stupid policemen. Especially funny are a couple of chaotic scenes.

The film is never really surprising, nor is it of the dark Eastern type. Rather an amusing crime thriller.

The Future – Miranda July (2011)

Weird, this film is entirely not my genre. A romantic drama type of film. Somehow I read something about it when it came out that made me want to see it. It took a while before I did, because I never saw it anywhere until recently.

We follow a bored and boring young couple who decide to start to live for their last month (after which they will adopt a cat). The man goes to work for charity, the girl finds another friend. The film is very slow and very minimalist with strange dialogues about odd subjects and a couple of strange elements. Nothing much really happens, but I think the director tries to make their characters (and the viewer) wonder about simple things in life.

Not my genre and indeed, not really my film.

28 Days Later… – Danny Boyle (2002)

Boy, this film is bad… Just another zombie film with an attempt at an intelligent script.

Jim wakes up in an empty city of London. On wandering around he first encounters a few zombies, then a couple of “uninfected”. The group leaves the city to find a safe place and a series of predictable events occur. Nowhere the film reaches any level and I really wonder where the IMDb rating comes from.

Nope, do not watch this Boyle film.

Fargo (series) (season 2 2015)

I have good memories of season 1, which I remember is quite like the film. Reading back my review of July 2015, this is not really the case though. Somehow I had the idea that I had seen season 2 already and when season 3 came I noticed I had not seen season 2 yet. Time to do something about that!

The story is season 1 is that of the film, but with more context. So what would the story be of season 2? Do small, snowy cities have more violent crimes? Apparently they do, since season 2 takes us back to 1979 in which a clash between two criminal groups runs completely out of control. Some civilians and local police officers get caught in the middle and a story as unlikely as that of the film and season 1 unfolds. The stunning naivety of some of the main characters gives plenty room for the black humor that accompanied previous Fargos and the cold-bloodedness of the criminals allows for violent outbursts and more black humor.

Now I do not know if you want to know this or not, but season 2 is not just similar story in a similar surrounding. Two characters that feature in season 2, return in season 1. Or put the other way around: season 2 is a “prequel”.

Just as season 1, season 2 is a fun watch, but by and far not as good as the Coen film. Since there are only 10 episodes, the music (especially in the earlier episodes), characters, story and atmosphere are well done, I would say that this second season is not a waste of time though.

Pandorum – Christian Alvard (2009)

Here we have a well-written scifi horror.

Bower wakes up in what appears to be an abandoned space ship. He is not alone for long, because Payton falls out of his pod soon too. Bower sets out to explore the ship and soon finds out that he is not alone. Not only members of other crews wander around the ship, also some sort of zombies.

That does not really sound like a swell story, right? Well, the reason they are where they are and why the creatures on the ship are there as as well, makes a fair story. Also the film has a nice, tense atmosphere and the story unfolds slowly. It is too bad that the end does not exactly have the level of the rest of the film, but overall “Pandorum” is a fairly good film.

THX 1138 – Georges Lucas (1971)

Ha, a scifi of Georges “Star Wars” Lucas that is older than I am. The first Lucas that I review too!

The title refers to the main character who lives in a bleak future. The film plays in some sort of factory / living commune in which everybody is obliged to follow orders. ‘The system’ has its way to keep the workforce quiet, such as forced medication, rigid control and consumerism as religion (“Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy. And be happy.”)

The film is somewhat vague and not always easy to follow. Also there is an overwhelming amount of ‘surrounding sound’. Talking speakers, whistling noices, broadcasters, etc. That does make the film noted for another watch some day, since it is interesting enough for a second round.

The stages vary from minimalist (all white) to elaborate machine cities including some amusing findings for its age.

“THX 1138” is not a masterpiece. The 6.8 at IMDb is a bit on the low side in my opinion, but would not need to be much higher. Like I said, it is a descent and enjoyable film. A scifi classic. It seems that four years earlier Lucas made another film with the same main character. Let me see if I can find that one too.

The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino (2015)

There are quite a few similarities between Tarantino’s last film and his previous one. Both “The Hateful Eight” and “Django Unchained” are about three hours, a reason for me to not put them high on my list and in both cases the story could have been told in a shorter film. Both films are about the origins of American racism. “Django” is about the times of slavery and this time the film plays in a time just after the war between the North (that wanted to get rid off slavery) and the South (that wanted to keep it).

Another similarity is the setting. Both films have limited settings, a plantage in the older film, an inn in the later one. Both films mostly revolve around Tarantino’s highly entertaining and lengthy dialogues, weird humor and of course a bloody shootout at the end.

In “The Hateful Eight” we have two bountyhunters traveling to the same town to collect their bounty. On their way they pick up another person and a snowstorm forces them to take shelter in a remote inn. The friendly folks there prove not to be as friendly as they appear.

Like I said, the film could have been shorter, but “The Hateful Eight” is highly entertaining. Typical for a Tarantino, but I am sure that is the way he intended it.

Ghost In The Shell – Rupert Sanders (2017)

Many years ago in some local art gallery there was a Japanese anime called “Ghost In The Shell”. Later I saw a similar anime with a similar title (“No Ghost In The Shell” if I am not mistaken). I figured it was just the title the artist gave to his / her work, but in the next years the ghost from the shell popped up more often and now there is a film with this title? Are they all based on the same Japanese comic or is something else going on? A fact is that the present film seems to play in some future Japanese city, so I guess it is based on the same concept.

Scarlet Johansson plays a robot with a human brain (the ghost in the shell). She is an almost invincible terrorist fighter who apparently prefers to fight naked. The film begins magnificently with a weird city with 3D advertisements, a surrealistic atmosphere and a nice soundtrack. There is a bit of a ‘Matrix vibe’. Because most inhabitants of the city are either robots or modified humans, some pretty strange elements could be inserted. This part is very well done.

Later on “Major” (Johansson) starts to realise her unique position which she is not overly happy with and the film goes back to a more ‘normal’ film of an action drama sort. Story wise this is still interesting, but ‘filmographically’ the second half is less interesting than the first.

“Ghost In The Shell” is a very descent sci-fi action film with great and just good elements and parts.

Vikings (series, season 3) – Michael Hirst (2015)

Well then. Even more so than the previous season, 3 is mostly a soap opera. The focus is almost exclusively on the characters.

We jump back and forth over the globe. In one scene we are in Kattegat, then suddenly in Britain or with many of the characters (including women) in Paris. In Britain a Viking colony is started, but the conquering of Paris would be to Lothbrok’s fame.

Besides gathering fame, Lothbrok toys with the idea of Christianity throughout season 3, much to the demise of mostly Floki who develops a growing dislike for his king and his best friend Athelstan.

There are the usual talks of the relationship between men and women, of course the raids with an occasional fight and only a handful of scenes on the sea.

A little annoying is the way Norse mythology is used. A man comes to Kattegat, tells a story that in the Edda is an adventure of Thor, but the man is Odin in disguise (and the story only used partly).

“Vikings” remains a series that may be amusing, but nothing more than that.

Cypher – Vincenzo Natali (2002)

Man, what an awful film… I already did not like Natali’s “Splice” (2009) too much, but perhaps I thought to remember I found it alright?

“Cypher” is, to me, a film that fails on all points. There is a totally annoying story that has a plot shift every other second. The acting is awful. There are tries on vague scenes which are boring. For 90 minutes I have wondered how long it has been since I saw a film as bad as this. I sat it out, but when I had to go to the bathroom towards the end, I did not even use the pause button…

A dull man is hired by a company to be a spy. Then he is hired by the competition as counter spy and then by a third party. Both companies try to brainwash the man to try him to be another person. A Japanese looking lady seems to try to help him, but is that true? The aims of both companies seem to be nonexistent.

90 Minutes of annoyance. I cannot make more of “Cypher”. I like a weird film, but this is just bad.

Nerve – Henri Joost & Ariel Schulman (2016)

Damn, a teen movie. From the beginning it is clear that I am a few decades older than the target audience…

The zombie generation has a new game to play and follow 24 hours a day on their phones and which makes people famous who would normally be ignored. Just as the kids do all kinds of “challenges” nowadays, the game “Nerve” combines all that in a big game. “Watchers” pay to follow the game, “players” get challenges from the “watchers”. Performing them brings them money, at the end of the day one “player” wins and wins the big bucks. The “players” are watched constantly by the crowd throw their phones’ cameras.

The challenges go from ‘kiss a man you never met’ to ‘hang from a construction on top of a skyscraper’. The “watchers” manage to come up with the next challenge through a chat with 4000 people within seconds and the organizers of the game miraculously have insight in the complete lives of their “players” so they can share their fears with the “watchers” and also transfer money to their banks and withdraw it.

Needless to say that at the center of this all there is a pretty girl that is not popular at school, but works her way up in the game, sees how stupid it is and manages to shut it down.

Pretty boring it all is. The film does contain some messages for the zombie generation and their challenges and online lives though.

Se7en – David Fincher (1995)

That is odd. I have known this film since it came out. I have seen it several times and when I bought a DVD recently I came home to find out that I already had it. So why did I never come to review it? Because it is too old? Because it was not old enough to be a ‘classic’? Well, it is a classic and deserves a place in the halls of this website.

Are there people who never saw the film? With “Manhunter” (1986) (he did I not review this film either? it is great) and “The Silence Of The Lambs” (1991) this is the mother of serial killer thrillers. Both these films where fairly dark and bloody, but “Se7en” rushes past in that. “Se7en” is one of the early films with a story that involves a puzzle too. Indeed, a classic. I did not remember the hip opening credits which also foreshadow films to come.

Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills (Brad Pitt) investigate a serial killer who seems to use some sort of logic in the choosing and displaying his victims. Quite gruesome too. The duo figures out the puzzle and set out to catch the bad guy. He has a closing surprise though.

Now, over two decades later, countless films have been made with these elements, but seldom as good as in “se7en”. There is not yet the ‘look what bloody murders I come up with’ type of script writing (well maybe this is one of the starts for these elements). Just a well made, gloomy thriller with some gruesome details.

I remember that I figured out the last two deadly sins when I first saw the film, but even when you know what is coming, “Se7en” is a great film.

The Beguiled – Sofia Coppola (2017)

Sofia Coppola made a couple of very good films and a couple of ‘alright ones’. In “The Beguiled” (falling in the latter category) she returns to the costume drama genre with a film playing in America during the Civil War.

In a house full of young ladies a wounded soldier in found in the garden. The soldier is a Yankee, a Northerling, and the ladies school is in the South. Decided is to have the soldier heal and send him on his way. The girls are of a variety of ages, from young to adolescent to young adult. Of course all find the soldier very interesting bringing friction among the inhabitants.

There is not much of a story to the film. Coppola more seems to aim at displaying psychological changes that occur in the group with the arrival of the stranger. Also, even though we never leave the house and its direct surroundings, the film gives an idea of what it was like in the time of the war between North and South.

A star cast drama for a rainy autumn evening, but not a film to place high on your list.

The Jacket – John Maybury (2005)

And just like several of the last films that I reviewed, “The Jacket” involves travelling in time. Typical.

While serving in Iraq Jack Starks get shot in the head. He does not die, but the hole in his head leaves a hole in his memory, perhaps even in his mind. He needs a dog tag to remember his name and just seems to travel around the country not living anywhere. Not being an easy person to deal with due to his condition, Jack ends up in an asylum of the criminally insane where he is subjected to an experimental treatment. The idea is to peel off his bad side by reprocessing the past, Jack actually travels to the future.

The film starts as a nice, somewhat surrealistic film with a good atmosphere that reflects Jack’s state of mind. As soon as the ‘trick’ is clear this element gets worn out, quite like in the recently reviewed Deja Vu actually.

“The Jacket” is weirder than most of the time travelling films that I reviewed recently, especially in the first half, making it somewhat more interesting. It is not a masterpiece though.

The Usual Suspects – Bryan Singer (1995)

I saw this film in the time it was just out and very, very hip. This is one of the early films with a ‘difficult script’, one that left the viewer to puzzle out what is what. In the same year “Se7en” was released, another such classic. “Se7en” is much darker and actually launched the popular serial-killer-thriller genre, but “The Usual Suspects” is more a predecessor of puzzle films such as “Memento” (2000) or “The Prestige” (2006).

I remember a friend of mine had figured out “The Usual Suspects” before it was over. Usually that was me I ‘predicted’ the end of “Se7en” and got very annoyed by “The Sixth Sense” since I already got the clue before the film was halfway (and I disliked it).

Now that of course I had known the ‘secret’ of “The Usual Suspects” for a couple of decades, I still highly enjoyed the film. I do not remember if I have seen it again after the first time, but I did remember most of the film. It was cool to see how clues to the ‘surprise’ are woven into the entire film. Other than that the star-cast is great, the filming good and the flashbacks moody.

I do not suppose I have to say anything about the story or are there readers who do not know this classic? Oh well. When a truck with weapons disappears, the police knows nothing better to do than lining up four known criminals and a small crook. They are ‘the usual suspects’. Put in a cell together, the five forge a plan for an easy job which they execute together. Soon it becomes clear that they all had their missteps with a high ranking and (half) mythical criminal called “Keyser Söze” who forces them to do another job to redeem their crimes. This job goes very wrong and the sole survivor retells the events. Not exactly how they went though…

A great script, even when you know the conclusion, and a generally wonderful film to (re)watch some day.