Dirty Mind * Pieter van Hees (2009)

Van Hees made this film a year after the wonderfull horror/thriller “Linkeroever“. Apparently he wanted to have a try with action comedy, but that did not work out too well.

“Dirty Mind” is spoken in Flemish and contains some amusing ‘Flemish humour’ (expressions, etc.) and the story could have been just fine, but the acting and overall film are pretty unconvincing. We have two brothers Cisse and Diego who do stunts for films, not always very professional, but well enough to make a living. Cisse is the hip stuntman, Diego the nerdy assistent. When Diego has to perform a stunt that goes wrong, he wakes up in the hospital as a brand new man, well-spoken and charismatic. A neurologist and an intern are working on an experiment to fix this type of affection, Diego (then Tony) has second thoughts, since he actually improved.

This story forms the hanger for better and lesser jokes and some thoughts on how far doctors can go to ‘help’ people.

Like I said, the result is not very convincing.

Anomalisa * Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman (2015)

Apparently Charlie Kaufman can also make a boring film. “Anomalisa” is an animation that is too ‘real’ for an animation, but not ‘real’ enough to watch it as a film. Not my kind of animation.

The film is about a writer and speaker about customer services who travels to Cincinnati to give a lecture. Apparently his life does not go the way he would like and he tries to compensate this by using the opportunity to try to get laid.

There are a few odd moments in the film, but not enough to make it interesting. It is just a film without much of a story and what there is of a story is not very appealing (to me). Perhaps the story is more just to hang a well-made animation on to, but I am not the person to judge that.

A Most Violent Year * J.C. Chandor (2014)

New York, 1981. Abel Morales apparently comes from a maffia family, but tries to make his oil transport business legal and transparant. The problem is that his competitors do not all follow the law and Abel did not always either. Two problems occur for Abel. People are violently stealing his trucks and the local government investigates the oil transport business in search for corruption.

“A Most Violent Year” makes an alright drama which has a good 1980’ies feel and shows the thin line between running a successful business and running a clean business.

d’Ardennen * Robin Pront (2015)

A Flemish film in which one of two derailed brothers is sentenced to seven years in jail. When he is released after four years, the brother that was not caught had fallen in love with his brother’s girlfriend and has tried to get his life back on track. The inmate has had four years for his disillusionment to grow. He did not exactly become more easily to handle.

Kenneth (the ex-inmate) does seem to want to try to get his life somewhere near what he has in mind, but when things do not go the way he would prefer, his manipulative nature comes bubbling up. His brother Dave does not know when and how to tell about the new situation, while Kenneth initially thinking of winning Silvie back makes even more problems than there already are.

The film is initially a drama with a ‘thrillerish undertone’ because it is clear that things are going to escalate, but unclear how. Things turn for the bad even worse than I expected and the film ends with a couple of very grim scenes. This is all fairly well done.

“d’Adennen” may not be the best Flemish film, but it certainly is not a bad one.

Love & Mercy * Bill Pohlad (2014)

I often like films about musicians even when I do (did) not like the music. I expected this film to be about the Beach Boys. Actually this film is more about Brian Wilson, one of the brothers Wilson who started the band.

We jump back and forth in time. We see an adult Wilson (played by John Cusack) who is initially set as a bit of an odd person. In the past Wilson is played by Paul Dano and we see the Beach Boys already at the peak of their success. They are as big as the Beattles and ready to tour the world. Also here Brian is a bit off, but mostly in a ‘mad genious way’. He decides to stop touring with his brothers and to stay in the studio to write music. His music becomes more and more experimental and does not really sound like the Beach Boys’ success style. Brian increasingly appears to have autistic features.

In the present time Brian meets the pretty car sales woman Melinda Ledbetter. As Melinda grows into the group around her boyfriend-to-be, it becomes clear that more is wrong with Brian than him being a little odd. There is also something wrong with the people who say to want to take care of Brian. Especially his doctor Eugene Lendy (a good part of Paul Giamatti) is a questionable person.

“Love & Mercy” is mostly a drama. The music is secondary and you will learn little about how, when and why Beach Boys songs were written, so they add little to the atmosphere of the film. Perhaps (I do not know the Beach Boys very well) the film does give some insight in the less-popular recordings of the band (or Brian with other musicians).

An alright film, mostly to watch as a film about a person with a problem.

Night On Earth * Jim Jarmusch (1991)

IMDb.comFive cities, five taxis, five meetings of people who formerly did not know eachother in five short films. Because of the setting, “Night On Earth” is mostly built on the dialogues between the taxi driver and his passenger(s).

Jarmusch worked these few elements very well. In the first film a movie-scout meets a very young taxi driver (Winona Ryder) but both appear to have different views on carreer-planning.
In the second part, an Eastern German immigrant taxi driver picks up a man from Brooklyn with a very catchy laugh.
Another immigrant taxi driver we find in Paris who first picks up to other Africans and later a blind woman.
The taxi driver from Rome is a hilarious Italian whose mouth does not keep still for a second. He literally talks his nighly passanger to death.
More melancholic is the last ride in Helsinki where dramatic stories are shared between the driver and his three passangers.

“Night On Earth” makes a very amusing film.

Slow West * John Maclean (2015)

I read some good things about this film and thought it would be a nice variation on the Western film. Actually it is a fairly straightfoward Western.

The young Scott Jay Cavendish travels accross America to find the woman he loves who left the country with her father. Jay is doing pretty well until he runs into Silas, a crude bounty hunter, or is he not as crude as he seems? The two continue the travel together, meet up with some strange people until they find the house where Rose and her father reside.

Like I said, the film is a fairly straightforward Western. There are some amusing dialogues and Maclean seems to have wanted to put some extra stress on what the American colonisers did with the indigenous people. For the rest there is not much of a story. That is not really needed either. From early on it is clear how things are going to end and yet, the final scene sticks out to the atmoshere of the rest of the film.

“Slow West” is a descent film, but I do not really find it a ‘high flyer’.

La Isla Mínima * Alberto Rodríguez (2014)

The film starts as a fairly common murder investigation in the rural parts of Spain. Two officers are sent to a small community to investigate the disappearance of two young sisters. Soon it becomes clear that more is going on and the film develops towards a somewhat grim, Scandinavian-gloomy-ish thriller with long shots and a dark images. There are the obligatory twists and turns in the story and the changing suspects. Nothing too unexpected, but well enough.

The film is perhaps better suited for a dark autumn or winter night than a hot summer night, but “La Isla Mínima” makes an entertaining crime thriller.

Black Mass * Scott Cooper (2015)

Johnny Depp is great as James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, a man who grew up in “Southie”, the Southern part of Boston. His brother made it to the office of senator, an old friend is going well in the FBI. Whitey walks the criminal path and becomes the main man in “Southie”.

When his FBI buddy starts to climb the ladder and picks up the plan to use Whitey to catch the Italians in the North of the city, Bulger sees an opportunity to use to his own benefit. Soon his power grows outside his own part of town, making life difficult for both his FBI friend and his senator brother.

“Black Mass” is an American maffia film playing in the 1970’ies and seems to be based on true events. It is a fairly typical maffia film with violence and black humour, but it is done very well with good acting and an interesting story. Depp managed to set a character that is easy to identify with, but he also manages to raise aversion, probably showing what James Bulger was really like.

The Neon Demon * Nicolas Winding Refn (2016)

The latest Refn has more than one comparison to David Lynch’ “Mullholland Drive”. It is about a young girl trying to find her way in a poisonous, glamerous world (here modeling instead of film), the film is slow, weird, minimalistic with strange, surrealistic scenes and a story that does not quite ‘fit’. Even the minimalistic dialogues that Lynch likes to use can be found in “The Neon Demon”, but of course Refn is also a master of minimalism. Also in both films are high-contrast and bright images. Fear not, though, “The Neon Demon” is not a Lynch clone, it is very much, and very recognisably so, a Refn. He works a lot with face closup and the somewhat industrial soundtrack bring enlarged emotions which worked out pretty well.

The 16-year-old orphan from Georgia, Jesse, goes to LA to try to find her way into the world of modeling. She is immediately picked up as highly promising, this to the dismay of colleages / competitors. Being alone in a big city and in a poisonous world, Jesse is bounced between insecureness and overly-securedness.

The film is ‘normal scenes’ and also experimental scenes, quite like “Under The Skin” that I saw a day earlier. These scenes play in clubs, but also (as it seems) in Jesse’s head. Also the story develops towards a bloody mess.

When you know Refn, the film will have no big surprises. Perhaps it is stranger than his previous work. “The Neon Demon” is a very entertaining film if you enjoy the odd corner of filmmaking.

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