Bird Box – Susanne Bier (2018)

Sandra Bullock and droopy face Sarah Paulson (who plays in all “American Horror Story” seasons) in an apocalyptic action film. Would that be something? It’s also a Netflix original…

Some sort of creatures roam the earth. When you see one, you become suicidal. A few people have figured that out before it was too late and they end up on a house together. This goes alright for a while, but slowly but surely the number of people goes down. A message was received from other survivors who live downstream a river, so when all else fails, Bullock and two children make the hazardous journey.

“Bird Box” does not have a great story, but it is somewhat original and not too badly executed. What the film does do well, is set a tense atmosphere. There are some star actors here too, some well thought of details and the acting is pretty good, especially that of the children.

The film is alright. If you feel like watching a pressing ‘no-splatter-horror’ sometimes, this could be an option.

Ying Hung Boon Sik – John Woo (1986)

“A Better Life” is an old Eastern mafia film. It looks old too with flat colours, 1980’ies (Western) clothing and 1980’ies music (Eastern and Western).

We follow a family making money by printing it. When their power grows, they become quite violent. Not all goes well and some end up behind bars or get shot. A few years down the line, some want to lead another life.

Once you have connections with the underworld, you will never get out. This is quite obvious as the pressure on those who opt for a normal life grows.

“A Better Life” makes an alright film, but I think it is somewhat overrated. It didn’t stand time as well as some seem to think. For its time I think the film was pretty violent, but the acting is not too convincing and the drama seldom works.

No waste of time, but not a classic either in my opinion.

Gattaca – Andrew Niccol (1997)

The film is older than I thought. So old even that I may have seen it before. 20 Years is not that long ago though, so it is quite funny to see how old the opening credits for example look.

The film gets quite a rating on IMDb, which is probably one of the reasons that I picked it out. Personally I think “Gattaca” is entertaining, but 7.8 out of 10?

In a near future most people are born by picking the best match. Every now and then a ‘child of God’ is born in which everything is left to chance. These people are not as perfect as the rest and are thus regarded degenerate. There are many swift tests to see how perfect somebody is. This has become the norm for many things in life.

Vincent is one of these ‘degenerates’, but he has set his mind on going on one of the many space missions. In order to do so, he has to be one of the elites, so he finds a way to fake his identity. Then a murder occurs of which the degenerate is the natural suspect, so Vincent is being hunt down by the police.

A descent story, well shot, good acting of good actors, “Gattaca” is indeed a good film, but I did not find it great.

World War Z – Marc Forster (2013)

I thought this would be some apocalyptic science fiction film and the 7.0 on IMDb gave me hope that it was any good too. Soon it becomes clear that the “Z” from the title means “zombie” and that is just what this is, yet another zombie film.

It is an expensive one with here and there some more detail in the story, but “World War Z” is but a very poor zombie film to me

Brad Pitt is Gerry Lane, a family man who formerly worked in dangerous areas. For his former occupation he is rescued with his family and taken to an aircraft carrier, but in return, he has to help to find the origin of the virus to help to find an antidote.

So Lane flies to the far east, to the near east and then to Wales to find the totally unimaginable zombies everywhere and of course has to fight and flee them until he does no longer. Not surprisingly Lane completes his tasks against all odds. There is the obligatory romance, drama and American patriotism.

Yawn.

Dragged Across Concrete – S. Craig Zahler (2018)

IMDb.com

This is a very slow and fairly grim crime film. Mel Gibson plays Brett Ridgeman, an old and cynical police officer who goes in a little too hard catching idiots. When he is suspended he takes up an idea to provide for his family.

Ridgeman and his also suspended partner Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) start following a drug dealer with the idea of taking some money that he does not need anyway. Of course things do not go entirely as planned and Rudgeman and Lurasetti run into a much bigger piece of crime than they hoped.

Quite some actors appear on the screen. Don Johnson, Udo Kier and Jennifer Carpenter. This does add a bit to the film, but it remains a quite nice, but not great film.

G.O.R.A. – Ömer Faruk Sorak (2004)

IMDb.com

My girlfriend wanted to watch a comedy on Christmas Eve and we came to this Turkish scifi persiflage.

Carpet salesman Arif Isik is kidnapped by aliens and is taken to the planet Gora. There he mingles with other abductees and tries to figure out a plan to escape. Naturally this also involves rescuing the daughter of the king.

The film has a lot of silly humour, sometimes funny, sometimes less so. There are quite some pranks that I think are probably funnier to Turkish people as they seem to refer to tiny elements of Turkish culture.

That said, “G.O.R.A.” is somewhat of a screwball comedy with references to many science fiction films from Star Wars to The Matrix. The stages look good, the characters are somewhat flat. Here and there it is amusing, but it does make me remember why I do not watch comedy a lot.

The House That Jack Built – Lars von Trier (2018)

Lars von Trier made a bit of an American Psycho type film. We follow Jack, a man with an obsessive-compulsive disorder but mostly a serial killer. The combination leads to Jack cleaning up houses of his victims thoroughly and checking multiple times for remains of blood.

We have Jack telling his story to his psychopomp. We get flashes of his violent youth, brutal murders and the things that go around in his head. All this is told with cold humour.

The filming seems to have been hand-held, but not completely ‘Dogma 95 proof’. It is mostly the way of filming that takes the film down a bit.

“The House That Jack Built” is a descent film, especially when you start to figure out how the film is meant to be. It is not a masterpiece, but when thinking big about the films that I saw from Von Trier, it is probably one of his better.

The Irishman – Martin Scorsese (2019)

Scorsese made a classic mafia film with classical mafia film actors such as Al Pacino, Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci.

Robert de Niro is the man from the title, a small time man who works himself up in the mafia ranks. Pacino is great at the overheated head of the truckers union and became one of the most powerful men in the USA.

The Italians in the USA have their hands in many businesses, often illegal. When the Kennedys rise to power, they start to get opposition, but fortunately that problem solves itself. Then internal problems occur that need to be taken care off.

“The Irishman” is an alright mafia film that in my opinion needed not to last for three-and-a-half hours. I must say that De Niro does not really convince.

The Nice Guys – Shane Black (2016)

I do not often feel like comedy, but Ryan Gosling’s presence convinced me to give this film a try. Oh, the other actor is Russel Crowe. When was the last film I saw with Crowe? “Gladiator” or so?

The two prove to make a very funny couple. A private detective and a private detective in the making, are working on cases that are connected, so after an initial clash, they start working together.

Initially “The Nice Guys” is an amusing screwball comedy. Towards the end we move more towards a nerdy action film which worked out less.

Overall, the film is a descent comedy though.

Altered Carbon – Laeta Kalogridis (series) (season 1) (2018)

This interesting-looking Netflix series is rated 8.1 on IMDb.com. So far I have had more luck with series on Netflix than with films. To me, “Altered Carbon” is by and far no 8.1 though.

The story is a bit thin. At some point humanity found a way to put a personality (or consciousness) on a disc (“stack”) that can be put in the neck of any body (“sleeve”).

Takeshi Kovacs is an “envoy”, a rebel soldier, who had been in “cryosleep” for 250 years (“put on ice”) after which he wakes up in a different body. As ‘the last envoy’ he draws attention. Then he is hired by an extremely wealthy man for a job in trade for his freedom. The case: the man has been killed, but fortunately he keeps a backup of his “stack” on a satelite, so he can just download himself and put himself in a new (newly cloned) “sleeve” when the old one perishes.

All good and well. Muscle-body Kovacs sets out to investigate. He is constantely followed by police-woman Kristin Ortega. Of course they run into all kinds of situations that make some action, romance or drama. The story gets less and less interesting as we go along. The series have some nice findings here and there, but overall, it is amusing at best. I doubt I will ever watch the second season.