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.

l’Amour Est Un Crime Parfait * Arnaud Larrieu (2013)

IMDb.com‘Love Is A Perfect Crime’ is a descent drama that becomes a bit of a thriller towards the end.

Marc is a professor of Literature on some hip university, I think Geneva. He lives high up in the mountains as seduces many of his beautiful students. When one of these students disappears, the police starts to investigate Marc’s role in this disappearance.

Marc lives with his sister with whom he also has a strange relationship. Also this relationship is tested throughout the film.

The film has beautiful shots of the mountainous regions of what I think is Switzerland. It also has a nice, slow pace and even though the story is wholly predictable, it is far from dull.

Perhaps not a masterpiece, but a very descent film.

The Merchant Of Venice * Michael Radford (2004)

IMDb.comA fairly dull film made of Shakespeare’s play. Naturally this is a costume drama. The creators decided to keep the Shakespeare dialogues, so they are often lengthy and ‘flowery’. This works better in some other Shakespeare films.

There is a merchant who takes a loan from a Jew (not the best part of Al Pacino) for a youngster (Joseph Fiennes) who wants to win the princess Portia. The loan has some pretty strange conditions that Shylock (the Jew) sets out to enforce.

The film is not really boring, but not really exiting either.

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.

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