Mission To Mars * Brian de Palma (2000)

I had expected more of a director of the calibre of Brian de Palma. Much more! “Mission To Mars” is really a weak film. The 5,5 on IMDb is completely just in my opinion.

We start with a party of astronauts some of whom are going on a mission to Mars the next day. The trip is half a year flying, a year on Mars and half a year back. Something goes wrong on the first mission and another crew is sent to rescue the first and finish the job.

Apparently De Palma wanted a relaxed atmosphere to his film, but it turned out completely emotionless. The drama is not dramatic, tension not tense. The acting is very stiff. Even a death that is minutes in the making is just another passing event. There are shots in space that look corny. Did De Palma perhaps try to make a 1970’ies like scifi? In works neither way. The film does not have a classic feel, but as a modern film is looks outdated.
The only thing that is somewhat interesting to “Mission To Mars” is the enigma that the crew runs into on the red planet. This is not worked out too well, but at least something happens.

I sure am nog allergic to slow films with little content, but this approach simply does not work in “Mission To Mars”.

Firefly (series) 2002/3

A science fiction series with a country song as soundtrack. That sounds like something different, not? I found these series on IMDb’s highest rated series list. 9.1 and a 12th place of 50. Just one season, so I gave it a try. “Firefly” sure is not a 9.1, but it is an amusing watch nonetheless. There is a strange story to the series too by the way.

The series in this box just stop like it was not finished. It appears that this is indeed the case. 14 Episodes have been filmed, 11 of them have been broadcasted. I supposed more were planned. Oddly enough the order in the box is very different from the order that IMDb has the episodes listed; probably the order in which they were broadcasted. What is strange too is that the series seem not to have had the success that was intended, a few years later, a full length film was made of it.

The series then.
A few centuries ahead a galaxial war is fought which is won by “the alliance”. Resistence veterans Mal(colm) and Zoë get themselves a spaceship (a “Firefly”) to make their living outside regular chanels. They smuggle and steal, but Mal and his crew are portrayed as good crooks. The crew is a varried bunch. A few episodes shed some light on the background of characters and how they got to work for Mal. For the rest there is little character development in the series, even though it watches a bit like a soap.

All planets and moons that spaceship “Serenity” flies to, look a lot like our own earth. Besides the inside of the ship and some cheap-looking space shots, there is not all that much scifi about the series. Often the crew just finds itself in some American looking desert with horses and cows. Hence the country music soundtrack I suppose and the description “Sci-fi Western” that you may find here and there.

There is not really a red thread through the series. The episodes stand more or less on their own, but there are episodes that give the viewer some background information. The episodes themselves can be amusing or somewhat standard, but most have some witty dialogues that are amusing. There are also some pretty ladies and good findings.

“Firefly” makes alright series. Not a waste of time, but not really a must-see either.

Parkland * Peter Landesman (2013)

Just a few days before the commemoration of the assassination of John F. Kennedy I get to see this film about the day that he was shot.

The title refers to the hospital where JFK was brought to and died and where, later the same day, also the man who allegedly shot him (Lee Harvey Oswald) also died after having been shot. “Parkland” is an intense drama which portrays the chaos of that day very well. The number of people in the room where doctors tried to save Kennedy, the pain of Jacky Kennedy and all other people involved, the media running overtime to cover all events, police and secret services trying to find the killer(s) and what happens when the supposed killer is caught.

“Parkland” surely is a good film that shows us the events of 22 November 1963 without making any conclusions. In the process it makes you wonder about the madness and stress of the people involved and how things would go if such a thing happens today.

Spectre * Sam Mendes (2015)

Sam Mendes took up the 007 franchise again. In my review of “Skyfall”, I wrote that Mendes managed to make a blend of hip action, 007-feeling and arthouse. “Skyfall” is a descent film, but not necessarily the best Bond. I can say the same about “Spectre”.

With “Spectre” Mendes seems to have aimed to make a classic James Bond film. The story is simple, Bond’s ways are spectacular and risky, there is an old-fashioned score, there are women (Monica Belluci’s part is way too short), a villain with big plans for world domination, name it. This aim for a classic feel does work here and there, but like with most films in the series, “Spectre” may be amusing but not particularly good.

We begin in Mexico where Bonds throws a few bad guys from a helicopter above a square stuffed with people. Being pushed aside by M for this scandal, Bond naturally sets out on his own to find the bad guy who was supposed to be dead. With many references to old Bond-films, several actors and even characters that we know from other titles, Bond chases a man who wants to put up a big data centre that will gather global information. Bond’s past chases him as he tries to unravel the sinister plot and save the women he meets along the road.

“Spectre” makes an action film with a fairly uncomplex story, unevolving characters, an allright atmosphere and descent acting.

Amusing, but not particularly good.

La Migliore Offerta * Giuseppe Tornatore (2013)

Most films that you see here reviewed recently come from a mail-film-rental from Belgium. I make a watch-list from their 20.000+ titles and when films are sent, their computer checks availability to choose which films I get. I can prioritise a little, but I cannot choose which film to see next. Every now and then I fail to remember what made me put a certain film on the list. In fact, I saw a few of those recently. Often that makes a rather disappointing watch, but “The Big Offer” was actually a very nice surprise. The director nor the actors seem to have been a reason to choose this film. Perhaps I read a good review about it. On to the film.

We follow Virgil Oldman, a preposterously rich art auctioneer who makes fortune from his own trade, but also enlarges his personal collection. Oldman is magnificently played by Geoffrey Rush. Oldman is contacted by a possible customer who wants him to valuate her parents house. Contacts are difficult, Oldman frequently gets annoyed by the evasive behaviour of his client, but lateron their relation improves. The customer is played by a young women who was born not too far from where I live, the beautiful Sylvia Hoeks.
The film makes a nice story about art collectors, the extremely wealthy and Oldman’s curiosity about his customer. The story is interwoven with facts about Renaissance art and experimentalism. All very ‘high-brow’, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of the film. It has that Italian ‘pompousness’. Then towards the ends comes a big surprise which kind of spoils the film for me a little.

Overall “La Migliore Offerta” is a very good drama/romance though with a bit of crime in it.

Rosemary’s Baby * Roman Polanski (1968)

I have seen this classic a few times before and I wanted to see it again because I was under the impression that Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, is in this film in the part of the devil. I had better searched the web before concluding that I had not found LaVey, because it appears to have been but rumours that he was in this film. Still, I think to remember a film in which the man does appear, looking pretty much like himself. Anyone?

“Rosemary’s Baby” is not a waste of time now that LaVey does not seem to be in it though. On the other hand, it is not the masterpiece that some people see in it either.

We follow a young couple who move into an appartment with a history of violence. Soon after Rosemary and Guy move in, things go both bad and well, but the nosy neighbours become even more so when Rosemary gets pregnant. First she follows all advice of her elderly neighbours, but after a while Rosemary discovers that these people are witches and that they, and the rest of their coven, are after Rosemary’s baby.

The story is not really surprising and since the film is pretty old, undoubtely not unheard of either. The atmosphere is alright, Mia Farrow nice to look at and the witches’ scenes are amusing. 136 Minutes of classic suspense. Rewatch when you start to forget about the film.

The Affair Of The Necklace * Charles Shyer (2001)

A film about the early days of the French revolution. We follow Jeanne St. Remy de Valois (Hilary Swank) who goes through great lengths to try to get her family house and estates back after it was confiscated by the crown. Mostly, though, she wants to rehabilitate her familiy’s name. She marries herself into court, but her case does not really make much progress until she runs into Rétaux de Vilette who teaches Jeanne the secret ways of influence.

An oppurtunity occurs using a necklase that queen Marie-Antoinette does not want and national cardinal Louis de Rohan who wants to get back in good terms with the queen. A massive complot takes all actors down and also helps to fire the start of the French revolution.

The reason to get this film was the presence of Count Cagliostry (Christopher Walken). The film does not really make clear his part in the conspiracy and he was acquitted of the charges.

The film makes a nice look into a manipulative part in French history, but remains nothing too much more than a Renaissance drama with some suspense.

Dredd * Pete Travis (2012)

So how did this film come on my watchlist? Not the director or any of the actors it seems. Hm… I’m not sure. It should not have come on my watchlist certainly. “Dredd” is a typical and fairly boring Hollywood scifi action. More even, it seems to come in the “Judge Dredd” series, or would it be a remake? Anyway, Judge Dredd and a rooky end up in a massive building ruled by Ma Ma and her drug gang. The buildig gets locked up the the two judges hunted down which results in massive shootouts and a lot of lost lives. And there you have the entirity of the film. Save yourself an hour and a half and watch something else.

La Grande Bellezza * Paolo Sorrentino (2013)

Jep Gambardella is an aged writer who wrote a very successfull novel 40 years ago bringing him a fame that he still thrives on. Since then he did not write a new book, but lived as a yup among the extremely wealthy of Rome and artistic circles. Every night is a party to Jep and during the days he shows off with his countless contacts and the women he chases. “La Grande Bellezza” (‘the great beauty’) shows the decadent lives of Rome’s upper class.

The film contains many dialogues, those of the intelligent type. Jep proves to have a clear mind and he easily expresses peoples darkest sides. During the film Jep has a growing feeling of the pointlessness of his life and the film that already had a fairly melancholic tone becomes even more so.

“La Grande Bellezza” certainly is a good film with surprising dialogues and uncommon scenes. It is not really my type of film though.

Mutant Chronicles * Simon Hunter (2008)

Man man, what a weak film. I think I found this title because Ron Perlman is in it (and John Malkovich). “Mutant Chronicles” is a sci-fi action spectacle with a far too elaborate story.

It starts in the past with Druids or so who guard a secret. Then we jump to 2707 with a war that looks very much like WWII. A few characters are introduced and also the problem they are going to face. Some zombie-producing 10.000 year old machine that was buried beneath the earth until the mentioned war. This part of the film looks a bit like the story of a massive book had to be compressed into a 15 minute introduction. Then the pace drops extremely when we start to follow a group of people setting out to destroy the machine. Ron Perl is brother Samuel who has a book, a “chronicle”, fortelling events and he believes it also tells him how he can make an end to things. The group travels through tunnels and abandonned cities perpertually chased by armies of zombies with swords-for-arms.

The film is unconvincing, not exciting, not really tense and the bloody action looks corny. Besides a few fair jokes and ideas (a steam-engine space ship for one), “Mutant Chronicles” is rather awfull. The balance makes is just quite weak.

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