Fargo (season 1) (2014)

Running series have a strange habbit of getting preposterously high IMDb rates recently. “Breaking Bad” now stands at 9.5, “Game Of Thrones” too. “Dexter” 8.9. “True Detective” 9.3. “Mad Men” 8.7. Most of these series are not good enough for me to watch all seasons, or even the next. I do like series though, but they are seldom really good. Then I heard that a series was made of the film “Fargo”. The film (1996) is good for a 8.2, which is deserved. The series currently stands at 9.0.

Initially I thought that the film would have been made into a series. When watching the series this proved to be incorrect and it seems that the true events that the series show are a story that Coen brothers only took a part from for their film. This neither can be true. What is true that both the series and the film play in the snowy landscape of Minnosata and things do not go as the main character had in mind. The characters are alike, the names differ. What also differs is what happens. When you know the film, you still will not be able to foretell events in the series. It is even hard to figure out which character in the series is which in the film sometimes. The atmosphere is comparable. Drama with black humour and violent outbursts. Enough of the comparing though.

The major character in the series is hired killer Lorne Malvo, brilliantly played by Billy Bob Thornton. The icecold Malvo leaves a trail of blood and violence. What is worse, he is also followed by a trail of violence. Malvo accidentally gets acquainted with Lester Nygaard, who -much more than Jerry Lundegaard in the film- proves to be a selfish bastard.

The series make a nice watch, but they by and far do not reach the heights of the film. Also, especially towards the end, the series become more of a drama. Not a cry-baby kind of drama, but the humour slowly flows away, leaving a grim story. The two closing episodes are downright thrillers. This is well done and it all nicely tumbles over the estimation of the characters involved.

So, if you have not seen the series yet, try not to think of the film deciding if you will watch it. The resemblances are vague at best. Like I said, the series make a nice watch, but that 9.0 at IMDb.com is overrated in my opinion. Also, should I have known that more seasons are in the make (2 is announced when I write this), it might have dropped down on my list. I do not like most 3+ season series so I usually wait until a series is wrung out before I decide whether or not I will watch it.

Gone Girl * David Fincher (2014)

One day Nick Dunne comes home finding out that his beautiful wife is missing. When the police start its investigation, Dunne soon becomes the prime suspect for the murder of his wife.

The first part of the film is well done. It is told from Nick’s perspective and the situation becomes more and more awkward. His wife is an extraordinarily popular writer. Her parents immediately set up a gigantic search team and involve the media to find their daughter. This results in a huge media circus. Fincher nicely shows how the media is manipulated to manipulate the public opinion.

About halfway the film becomes explanatory and the level drops. A few plot-turns and shifts of perspective make that the film is not boring, but it never again reaches the atmosphere of the first part. In sum “Gone Girl” is a descent drama/thriller, but not more than that.

Divergent * Neil Burger (2014)

Another film that does not rise above the level of average. “Divergent” opens with an elaborate description of the world in which everything but one city is destroyed. In this city a rigid system reminding of the Hindu varna-ashrama is created to maintain peace. The biggest difference with the Hindu system is that youngsters who turn adolescents can switch “virtue”, but this is not common.

We follow Beatrice/Tris who switches “virtue”. All the before is used to make a film of Tris’ hardships in her training for her chosen “virtue”. Of course Tris is different, falls in love with one of her leaders and proves brilliant after a difficult start of her education. Nothing surprising here.

The film gets a 6.9 on IMDb. A way too high rating in my opinion. “Divergent” is again a teen/youth film and I guess it is mostly the same ago who rate films and apparently like films about people of the same age.

In any case, like I say of many films recently, “Divergent” is not bad or boring, but neither a film that needs to come up anywhere at the top of you to-see-list.

Terminator Genisys * Alan Taylor (2015)

“Terminator Genisys” was as much fun as the first two Terminator films (from 1984 and 1991) back in the days. Perhaps it is for the better that I did not yet know that “Genisys” is not exactly part three. Only now do I see that there has been a part 3 in 2003 (different director, but with Schwarzenegger) and a 4 in 2009 (again a different director and no Schwarzenegger).

Action is not really my genre, but we felt like seeing a film on the big screen and “Terminator Genisys” seemed like an option. It sure was! The film is great fun, perhaps even more so for people who know the old films to which dozens of references are made. Also Schwarzenegger is back acting like we like him and the writers of the film even managed to write his growing age into the story.
This story revolves around the first two films (and perhaps the other two, but I cannot say anything about that) -which is well done-, but also has a story of its own. Not the most brilliant story, but is functions as a rack for typical Terminator action with fluid robots, car chases, shootouts and exploding helicopters. The 3D did not add much, but the big screen probably added to the fun.

Not a film that you have to see on the big screen, but when you like the good old Terminator films, you might enjoy this latest Schwarzenegger too.

The Maze Runner * Wes Ball (2014)

I had to pick something from the ‘on demand’ menu and “The Maze Runner” has a 6.9 on IMDb, so…

So I really wonder where that rating comes from! The film is a teen-thing, so perhaps teens find this film worth the watch. I did not really.

Thomas finds himself being transported to a strange, walled environment where he meets boys of his age who are trapped in the same situation. Thomas learns that they are stuck in the middle of a gigantic maze, the doors to which open in the morning and at night. “Runners” explore the maze which is -of course- full of terror.

Characters reminding of some from “The Matrix”, a story like that of “The Cube”, teenage actors and situations. Nope, the film never really reaches any peaks and remains a 13-in-a-dozen scifi’ish action thriller that may be not boring, but it certainly is not any good either.

The Theory Of Everything * James Marsh (2014)

The story of the famous scientist in the wheelchair. We meet Stephen Hawking as a brilliant, but not too-hard-working student who cannot decide the subject of his thesis. He meets his beautiful wife-to-be, but is soon diagnosed with a disease and is told to have max two more years to live. As you probably know, Hawking -born in 1942- is still among us.

As a student, Hawking saw as his life’s project to find a simple equation that explains everything. This theory he is still working on, but in doing so he wrote books that changed the ways scholars look at certain things. The film is not about this theory, but about the man, his disease, his ups and downs in life, etc. A fairly common drama without any surprises, but a fair way to learn more about the famous scientist in the wheelchair.

The East * Zal Batmanglij (2013)

Special agent Sarah infiltrates a radical group of environmental activists who attack public people who abuse the environment. The story is not uninteresting and for the most parts “The East” is a well-tensioned thriller, but on the long run, it is not a very good film in my eyes.

The director apparently felt the need to portray the group “The East” as some sort of sect. This results in too lenghty, superfluous, silly and rather boring New Agey scenes which take down the film substantially. The scenes in which the “jam”s are worked out and executed show the difficult relation between ideology and practice. This is worked out quite well, especially in the case of Sarah, who -of course- grows towards the group, but this is not enough to save the film. The social criticism of the film makes up some.

Birdman * Alejandro González Iñárritu (2014)

A fine film indeed! I expected a bit of a weird drama and “Birdman” indeed is a bit of a weird drama, but not as weird as the poster and trailer suggest or perhaps just differently and more subtlely.

Riggan is an actor who made fame with the pompous Hollywood comic-scifi franchise Birdman. We find him later in life running a theatre in the hip theatre scene of New York trying to perform the play of his life. Things do not entirely go as planned especially not when Mike comes aboard.

Birdman appears to not only be Riggan’s old movie-character and Riggan also is not an ordinary man thus the film has nicely surreal elements from the beginning. The film is shot with flying cameras and threatre-like drama so both in form and content “Birdman” is certainly a film to see.

Pompeii * Paul W.S. Anderson (2014)

I guess the director was the only reason this film landed on my to-see list. The rating on IMDb.com certainly not (5.6). On the other hand, I did not like the two other films of this director that I reviewed… So if that was the reason, I should perhaps mixing up Anderson’s? Then again, the three W.S.’s that I now review(ed) are neither really good, but also not really bad.

This film is totally different from the sci-fi spectacles “Event Horizon” and “Resident Evil”. We start with the Romans butchering a Celtic village. Only a small boy survives. 17 Years later the boy is a gladiator and one of the best. In Pompeii he meets Atticus, his biggest rival. The two not only share cell, but are also doomed to fight eachother.
Also in Pompeii, “the Celt” meets Cassia who on her turn is followed by Corvus from Rome to Pompeii, exactly the reason she left.
All this unsurprisingly comes together and the story has some other unsurprising turns. As the title suggests, the destruction of Pompeii by the Vesuvio vulcano makes part of the film. This allows the director to add some apocalyptic spectacle towards the end.

“Pompeii” is a 13 in a dozen historical spectacle with no surprises. It is not a boring watch, but certainly not a recommended one either.

Frankenweenie * Tim Burton (2012)

There are still Burton films that I did not see. “Frankenweenie” is a bit too much of a kids-film for me though. A young boy revives his deceased dog and when his classmates fear he is going to use that feat at the contest of their weird science teacher, they try to copy the trick. Of course things go wrong.

Like I said, the film seems to aim at a younger audience. Besides a few jokes, horror themed references for the parents (the kid is called Victor Frankenstein, there is a family Van Helmont) and funny characters, the film is at its best amusing.

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