Tom à La Ferme * Xavier Dolan (2013)

Tom travels to the farm of a colleague who passed away. The mother and brother of the deceased live there. However Tom never met either of them, he can spend the night until the day of the funeral. It soon becomes clear that Tom is not getting away easily.

“Tom at the farm” is a psychological drama with some thriller elements. We see how Tom goes from being an outsider to being a victim to being a sympathiser. This is worked out alright. The film is not really a ‘high flyer’, but certainly not a boring film either.

Waste Land * Pieter van Hees (2014)

“Waste Land” is a very nice thriller drama from Belgium. The story may not be overly original, but it is worked out well and with a very good atmosphere.

We follow homocide investigator Leo, a troubled man with a pretty wife and a child from an earlier relation of hers. Leo gets a shady case when a negro boy is found dead in a plastic bag. He runs into a dark world that inhabitents of the former Belgian colonies brought to Brussels. When his wife gets pregnant, Leo thinks of moving forward in life and to change jobs. Too bad that the case that he planned to be his last, brings up the worst in Leo.

The film begins as a descent, somewhat grim, police-thriller, but it grows darker with Leo’s state of mind. This is well done and the film certainly is a lot better than the 5.4 on IMdB suggests.

I, Frankenstein * Stuart Beattie (2014)

IMDb.comOnce again I wonder how this film found its way to my to-see-list. “I, Frankenstein” is awfull! The director of Pirates Of The Caribbean is not always equally successfull. Not did I see that franchise by the way…

The story is corny. There is a war between the bad guys called “demons” and good guys called “Gargoyles”. The creation of Victor Frankenstein survived 200 years and becomes the center of this war.

However great the CGI of this film is, the characters are silly and the story is extraordinary dull.

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai * Jim Jarmusch (1999)

IMDb.comJim Jarmusch’ take on the Hagakure, the Japanese manual for the warrior from the early 18th century. The book is quoted extensively.

The Ghost Dog from the title is also the Samurai from the title. Ghost Dog is a contract killer who looks like a “gangsta”. This element gives Jarmusch the possibility to add some negroid gang elements to his film and fitting music. The third element of the film is Italian maffia because that is the world that Ghost Dog gets his contracts from and with which he collides which forms the story of the film. The maffia elements of the film contain some black humour and references to films in the style.

These three pretty distinct elements Jarmusch managed to turn into a highly amusing whole. He even added his own way of filming: slow and minimalistic. I am not overly convinced by main part player Forest Whitaker, but this film is certainly entertaining when you like Jarmusch’ style.

It was about time that I saw an original and descent film.

Another Earth * Mike Cahill (2011)

I thought this would be a scifi, but “Another Earth” is actually a fairly heavy drama. The film has more incommon with “Sound Of My Voice” then with Cahill’s “I Origins“, but there certainly are similarities.

For starters, Brit Marling plays main parts in all three films. Second, all three films have a bit of a spiritual undertone. Both “Another Earth” and “Sound Of My Voice” are dramas with a scifi theme. In the latter title the main character supposedly comes from the future, in the present title scientists find a nearby planet that appears to be a mirrored version of our earth.

The story -though- is more about Rhoda (played by Marling) who drives into a family car driving home from a party. The story picks up when Rhoda comes out of jail after four years and she tries to find the father of the family who survived after having been in a coma. The two meet and of course the unexpected happens.

Parallel to the main story there is the story of the carbon copied earth. Of course everybody is intrigued by the idea that there is another version of him-/herself and what that would imply. When a party is sought to out visit the planet, Rhoda applies, since nobody would miss here on this earth anyway.

Like the other two titles mentioned “Another Earth” has an original story, a nice idea, but not worked out into a very convincing film.

The Canyons * Paul Schrader (2013)

An empty about the empy lives of a couple of Hollywood kids. The rich Christian (supported by his father) is film producer and claims to have an open relation with Tara. When he gets the idea that Tara is seeing another guy, Christian sets out to put her in her place.

“The Canyons” does not really become a thriller or anything. It remains a drama about ‘everyday rich youths’ and is only lifted in one scene in which a track of A Place To Bury Strangers is used.

The 3.9 on IMDb is completely just, so did I really put this thing on my watch-list myself or did I get it by accident?

Passion * Brian de Palma (2012)

I had higher expectations of Brian de Palma. (He, that is almost exactly how I opened my review of the previous De Palma film that I reviews.) “Passion” is a fairly weak film with only a few interesting elements.

Isabelle (Noomi Rapace, ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’) works at a publicity agency. Her boss, Christine (Rachel McAdams, too girly for her role) is extremely manipulative. At first Christine seems to not only want to be Isabelle’s boss, but also her friend. Soon it becomes clear that Christine’s reasons are selfish.
Then Isabelle comes up with a commercial that makes her star rise faster than Christine’s, so the latter brings up the worst in herself to make life miserable for Isabelle.

This all comes with a fairly standard story and poor acting. Halfway De Palma has an interesting experimental scene with picture-in-picture, but after that the acting gets even worse and the language goes to German. Of course everything is explained in one scene towards the end and then De Palma goes into ‘Lynch mode’ for the closing scene, which is funny, but does not really seem to add much.

Actually all of the above can be summerised with one word: “poor”.

Serenity * Joss Whedon (2005)

When I writing my review of the Firefly series, I checked IMDb to see what other productions some actors might be in. I noticed the title “Serenity”, the title of the ship in the series. That is odd. When I clicked on the title the film proved to be a scifi and I soon noticed that other actors of the series are in the film as well. Somehow, a few years after the withdrawal of the series (14 episodes have been filmed, 11 broadcasted and the DVD box has a sudden end, so episode 14 might not have been the planned last one) a film was made. With a bigger budget too it seems. Perhaps because of the success of “Buffy” that Whedon made in the meantime?

All major characters/actors of the series are in the film. The ship Serenity got a make-over, the Western elements are skipped and the title song replaced, but for the rest the film is mostly an episode of the series. More even, when the viewer does not know the series, (s)he might be puzzled by some characters and situations in the movie. The film watches like an episode after the last one (or perhaps the pre-last one?) of the series. Perhaps the director got the means to wrap up the story that he actually wanted to tell with his series? This is not entirely true either, because the film has a very open end.

The story then. It starts with a flashback explaining the story about River. That thread, which is not that ‘red’ in the series, makes up the basis for the film. We also learn more about “The Alliance” and some new twists are added to the story. The film is largely like the series. The relationships between the different characters, the sense of humour, it even has references to things that happened in the series.

I find both the series and the film a bit overrated on IMDb, but both make amusing views. The film is of the same ‘level’ as the series and might just as well have been added to it as an extended episode.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens * J.J. Abrams (2015)

Not the first Star Wars that I see, but “The Force Awakens” is the first Star Wars that I review. Apparently I do not remember a whole lot of the old films, because I did not quite understand which character is which and missed some apparent inside jokes.

Also I wonder where all the raving reactions and the 8.7 on IMDb come from, because I found the story to be rather thin, the acting not too great (however I must admit that I could stand Harrison Ford very well in this film) and the special effects are not really mind-blowing. The 3D does add something to the experience here and there, but when you watch this film on your own screen, I would not say you miss a great deal.

If I am not mistaken the two main characters are new to the story. Rey and Finn land in the battle between good and evil and help the resistance with securing a map that could lead to Luke Skywalker (a massive cliff-hanger). That is about the entire story. The bad guys are now called “First Order” and they go after the resistance to get the map, so a few space fights unravel, heroes are captured and saved, etc., etc. The stormtroopers and the guy in the black mask are suddenly very human which gave the director the possibily to add some drama that in my eyes does not add much to the film.

So, a space spectacle based on a old theme, but I do not have the idea that it comes anywhere near the older Star Wars films. Then again, I am of not a die-hard fan.

Now You See Me * Louis Leterrier (2013)

In 2006 there was “The Prestige” of Christopher Nolan. Also a film about illusionists. And was there not another film around that time with the same theme? In any case, “Now You See Me” is also a film about ‘magicians’ (in the entertainment sense of the word) and, like “The Illusionist” is did not work out too well.

Leterrier portrays the spectacle of four gifted, yet different, illusionists who start to work together on gigantic shows. Their tricks become more and more pompous with a stab towards society. In one show they rob a Parisian bank during a show in Las Vegas. Of course they have the police on their heels who try to watch their every step. Also on their heels is the Thaddeus Bradley, an illusionist who found out that more money can be made by explaining magic than by making it.

Of course the film takes a few obligatory turns to come to the all explaining conclusion at the pretty poor end. That and a few weak scenes and dialogues make the film at its best moments somewhat entertaining, but overall a fairly typical and not too good Hollywood production.

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