Se7en – David Fincher (1995)

Posted in thriller and tagged on by .

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)

Posted in drama and tagged on by .

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)

Posted in drama, mystery on by .

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)

Posted in thriller on by .

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.

Frequency – Gregory Hoblit (2000)

Posted in science fiction on by .

What is this? Again a time-travelling film? Is some future me playing jokes? Well, it’s not exactly time travelling this time.

There are two stories in this film. One is about the reckless firefighter John Sullivan. The other about his son Frank, a policeman whose life does not go exactly the way he would prefer. Then during heavy solar activity, Frank finds out that using his father’s old radio he can communicatie with his father 20 years back in time.

At the same time Frank is working on a serial killer case of a couple of decades ago so he asks his father to help out with the investigation. Needless to say that John’s actions in the past change the present and so we get a film with an alright story, but an awful happy end.

American Horror Story Hotel (series) – Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 5 2015/6)

Posted in drama, horror, series on by .

As the title suggests, season 5 plays in a hotel. This hotel is inhabited by living people, undead people and (inspite of the previous point) dead people. The undead people feed on the guests, allowing the creators to make bloody scenes with a lot of black humor. As we are used to, there are a lot of familiar actors, most of them in very different roles from previous seasons. There is a “countess” that looks like a perfect part for Jessica Lange, but this season is the first one in which Lange is not featured. I have no idea how that came to be, but the role is played by the lauded Lady Gaga. Gaga is indeed perfect for the part and she plays it exquisitely, but I wonder why she got a grammy for her part and other actors did not.

In any case, “the countess” rules a hotel omnipresent but from the background. She is a weird (looking) creature, but a very sexy one, exactly Lady Gaga. Two people man the front desc. An elderly lady and a drag queen. A policeman trying to find the “Ten Commandments Killer” finds his way to the hotel to no longer leave. “Hotel” is mostly a soap with drama and character development, but there is (of course) quite a bit of horror, also of the annoying ‘look what extreme ways of killing we can come up with’ kind.

Overall “Hotel” is a very descent series. The end is unexpectedly tame which actually adds to the previous.

Retrogade * Christopher Kulikowski (2004)

Posted in science fiction on by .

The name of Dolph Lundgren and the cover made me think that was a 1980’ies scifi, but it is just over a decade old. 3.1 On IMDb, promising…

Indeed, in the first part the acting is awful. Fortunately this gets better. It all looks pretty old too, so the film itself lives up to my expectations based on the cover. The story is alright, but again I got a time-travelling film.

In the present time a group of investigators travel to the south pole to find meteorites. These unearthly remnants contain a virus which in two centuries almost wiped out the entire human race, so a group of people are sent back in time to prevent the virus from being found. Of course there are bad guys on board who have other plans changing the past. What evolves is an icy action thriller playing on a ship that sailed out to find the meteorites while the time-travelers try to prevent them from bringing the virus to inhabited parts of the world.

Indeed, the film is not very good, but neither did it bore me stiff or annoy me.

Deja Vu – Tony Scott (2006)

Posted in crime, science fiction and tagged on by .

It probably sounded like a good idea for a story. A special investigation team found a way to look 4,5 days back in time, so they can retrace people’s steps solving crimes. Things get highly unlikely when the hardware proves to be able to see everything in that past, even within apartments. If that is not enough, the package comes with a time traveling machine.

A ferry is blown up killing hundreds of people. ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) proves to have a keen eye and his is recruited for the special team by Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer). Soon the investigation focuses on a young lady who proved to have died before the ferry was blown up.

I found the unlikeliness of the hardware too annoying to ‘get into’ the film. Fortunately the acting makes up a bit, but when things take ‘unexpected’ courses, my annoyance level rises again and the end is even more incredible.

The film is alright with regards to filming, action and acting, but more thought had to be given to the central theme of the film.

The Butterfly Effect * Eric Bress (2004)

Posted in thriller on by .

The third part of the ‘series’ did not really convince me 7 years ago, but the original film gets much higher ratings, so I decided to give it a try. Well, this is not really a good film either.

A young man has fits / black-outs. Many years later he discovers that he actually travels in time during these fits and he sets out to correct mistakes in the past. Every time he does that, the result turns out bad for somebody else.

The film starts with a nice, somewhat surrealistic atmosphere, but after a while the central subject becomes too worn out which causes the film to become ‘alright’ at best.

Triple 9 – John Hillcoat (2016)

Posted in action, crime, thriller and tagged on by .

A descent crime-action-thriller in which a group of bad cops violently rob a bank. Severe pressure forces them to do another job.

We follow the cops in their normal and ‘other’ occupations and of course their group of colleagues trying to find the men who robbed the bank.

The film starts as a proper action film, but slowly becomes somewhat darker making a nice, gloomy atmosphere towards the end. The story shows that there are often more sides to a story. It does not really have many surprises, but it is good and worked out well.

A Walk Among the Tombstones – Scott Frank (2014)

Posted in thriller on by .

Again I received a fairly usual Hollywood thriller. Of course I put them on my list, but I hope when the films are sent, I get a bit of a mix of styles.

The film is entertaining. Private investigator Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) is hired to find the killers of a drug dealer’s wife. It soon becomes clear that these killers pull the same trick frequently and Scudder slowly works towards finding them.

In a relatively slow pace with slowly built up tension a story is told with little surprises, a bit of humor and descent acting.

A good film, but not a must-see.

The Salton Sea * D.J. Caruso (2002)

Posted in thriller on by .

I wonder why the cover brings so much attention to the back tattoo of the main character, or why he has his unlikely ornamentations in the first place. Danny Parker / Tom Van Allen (Val Kilmer) is a fairly low profile character who lost his wife and decides to start his own under cover operation into the local drug scene in order to find the people who murdered his wife in a bit of a “Mememto” story (the story, not the way it is told).

Starting as a drug addict, Kilmer’s character grows towards being a man with a mission. This is told in an alright manner, but I do not find “The Salton Sea” much of a high-flyer. Just an alright film.

Möbius * Eric Rochant (2013)

Posted in thriller on by .

An all-right Hollywood thriller in which a young woman who is extremely successful on the stock-market is approached from different sides to be recruited.

Tim Roth plays a Russian rich man who sees the potential in Alice, but he is not alone. Secret services see in her a possibility to get inside (possible) criminal organisations and these, on their part, want to make sure that Alice can be trusted.

The film starts as a stock-market film, but ends up more like an espionage thriller which is fairly done.

Malos Hábitos * Simón Bross (2007)

Posted in drama on by .

“Bad Habits” is a Mexican drama about a women who thinks her daughter is fat and develops anorexia herself. Her husband does not like the way her body develops and takes a chubby girlfriend. Then we have a nun who develops an eating disorder because she thinks this will help her aunt and will stop de endless rains in her country.

It is weird. I undoubtedly had a good reason to put this film on my rental list, but once again I wonder why. When I check that list I seldom remove a title, but way too frequently I receive ‘just alright’ films recently and seldom a good one. I have to change tactics…

“Malos Hábitos” is not boring, but it is but a drama good for some lost evening when it happens to be on television.

Angels & Demons * Ron Howard (2009)

Posted in action and tagged on by .

At some point I was going to watch the follow-up of the famous “Da Vinci Code“. It was not very high up the list, but apparently I did not reread my review of the initial film…

Then again, with low expectations, Angels & Demons was not that bad. I guess you all know the story. The Pope has died and during conclave the four cardinals with the best papers to be follower-up are kidnapped and threatened to be killed. The group behind his action is a completely fabricated Illuminiati. Robert Langdon is flown in to decipher the maze that the Illuminati created.

The film is extremely pompous with classical music, a fairly high pace and intelligent-sounding theories of Langdon, who, for some reason, is accompanied by a female scientist.