Pearls Before Swine – Richard Wolstencroft (1999)

This film had been on my wishlist for over a decade. Every once in a while I would see if I could find it. A while ago I found it cheaply at Amazon. The DVD release seems to be from 2005 so I wonder if it just recently came into distribution or if I never paid enough attention.

The box compares the film to “A Clockwork Orange”, but to me it seems to fit perfectly in the “new violence” wave of films started by Quentin Tarantino and co. It contains brutal and meaningless violence and lengthy dialogues and monologues The director said that he had been toying with the idea for the film since 1994/5 and I can hardly imagine that “Pulp Fiction” (1994) has not been one of its sources of inspiration. He does state that he did not want to make a Hollywood or Australian film though and in a way Tarantino presented something new as well.

This film is of course best known for containing people from controversial music scenes. Boy Rice (NON) plays the main part. There is also Douglas P. (Death In June), but you may see other familiar names and faces. Wolstencroft even managed to get filmmaker Kenneth Anger for the film, but he had other occupations around the time of shooting the film, so he had to decline. People familiar with the scene that Rice and P. come from will hear some familiar tunes in the soundtrack too by the way.

There is not too much of a story to the film. A group of contract killers (or are they killers for pleasure) first kill a group of homeless youngsters and two of them are then hired to kill a writer. We mostly follow Daniel (Rice) showing a decadent lifestyle with S&M and intelligent sounding monologues and dialogues about (counter)culture, philosophy, politics, etc. In a way it seems that the film mostly revolves around these controversial scenes and almost two decades after the release of the film most is no longer really controversial than perhaps Daniel’s ideas about things.

Wolstencroft wanted to make an ‘un-Hollywood’ movie, but it is hard to not make comparisons. The acting is not always too strong and the same I can say about the camera work and montage. Still there are some very descent scenes here and there. It is not like this is a completely amateurish film. It is one of these films to just watch some time when you wonder what the controversy is about and discover that in a couple of decades nothing much of it is left. “Pearls Before Swine” is not a high flyer, but an amusing watch with a couple of uneasy scenes.

Upstream Color – Shane Carruth (2013)

What a weird film! In the first scenes a woman is abducted, drugged and hypnotised apparently for some experiment. The kidnapper seems to have other strange experiments. Later we find Kris back at her house where it soon becomes unclear if the events actually took place.

After this she runs into a young man. Was he her abductor, was he a victim of the same man or is the whole film built of suppressed memories of either of them?

“Upstream Color” appears to be a collection of scenes that either or not have something to do with each other. The film does not really appear to tell a coherent story. I usually do not mind that, but in this case I have the feeling that there might be a story that I fail to grasp.

The film is slow, meditative and fairly minimalist. It is alright, but the vague impression it made, prevents me from saying that it is good. Perhaps I should just watch it again some day.

Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan (2017)

I did not expect to receive this film so quickly from my DVD rental. I have the feeling it is just out of the cinemas. Nolan made some of the best films I know, but war films are not my genre, so I had no haste in seeing “Dunkirk”, but here it was.

“Dunkirk” is a good and pressing film about a small part of World War II. The British decide to evacuate soldiers from a small, French harbor. While thousands of soldiers are waiting for the ships, the Germans come in with fighter planes to throw their bombs.

Nolan managed well to give an idea of the tension. A droning, minimalistic soundtrack. He also managed well to give an idea of the drama on a larger scale, but several personal stories are interwoven to give the viewer characters to identify with, adding to the drama.

Indeed a good film. Not much like previous films of Nolan and war-films remain not my genre, but this is a film to get a glimpse of the atrocities of war.

Spartan – David Mamet (2004)

Here we have a fairly standard, but descent, action thriller. The opening is a bit confusing. Is Scott (Val Kilmer) some elite soldier, does he work for a secret service or both? We find him (helping) recruiting people and immediately after he is recruited himself for a job in which the daughter of a candidate for presidency is kidnapped.

From then on, “Spartan” is more straightforward. Scott and his team set out to investigate the kidnapping. It soon appears that some women’s trafficking group took a blonde not knowing who she is and the circle for investigation becomes wider and wider and people’s purposes become vaguer (or not).

The film has nicely built up tension, descent action, a good parts of Ed O’Neill and William H. Macy (both I know for very different roles).

Not a must-see, but not a waste of time either.

La Ragazza Che Sapeva Troppo – Mario Bava (1963)

I actually expected a “giallo” film. One of these 1960’ies Italian bloody horror films. In fact, Bava made a crime ‘whodunnit’.

A perfectly Italian speaking American tourist comes to Rome to visit an acquaintance. The woman dies instantly, on her way to the hospital Nora is not only robbed, but also witnesses a murder. Since nobody believes her, she starts her own investigation in what most likely is a serial killer.

Bava made a moody black and white film with his usual beautiful women and a very descent atmosphere. The supposed surprises are probably no surprises for an audience that is used to more elaborate riddles, but even when you have guessed the outcome early on, “The Evil Eye” remains a watch-worthy classic.

The original title fits the film a lot better than the international title by the way. It translates to: “The Girl Who Knew Too Much”.

The Good Thief – Neil Jordan (2002)

The last film of my box with “zeros” classics. None of them were really good, but neither was any of them really bad. “The Good Thief” features an actor who played in many films in these days, but none good enough to really remember the man: Nick Nolte.

Nolte plays the character referred to in the title of the film and does this very well. Bob is a known criminal and drug addict who somehow manages to be on good terms with everybody. This might be because he tries to help people.

While trying to help Anne, Bob and a couple of colleagues set up a plan for a big “heist” while everybody is watching them. A film develops in which the viewer is left to guess how Bob is going to pull off his plan. This is filmed with subtle humor and a descent atmosphere.

Not a bad film, but just one to watch on TV on some lost night or something.

River’s Edge – Tim Hunter (1986)

I found this film when I was checking what else directors of the original “Twin Peaks” series have made. Keanu Reeves and Tim Hopper’s names further caught my attention. “River’s Edge” is one of Reeves’ first full-length films.

The film follows some troublesome kids in a small community. When one kills a class-mate, the group is tossed between loyalty to friends and the memory of the class-mate.

Hunter made an alright film about youngsters who care little about what their parents think, but who eventually have to ‘give in to real life’.

Get Out – Jordan Peele (2017)

I guess I have missed why this film is so well-received. It is a very predictable thriller with horror elements. I guess it is because it points towards contemporary (latent) racism.

The white Rose brings her black boyfriend Chris for a weekend with her parents. Soon there proves to be a big family party in the same weekend. It is immediately clear that something is wrong in the family and the film takes no unexpected turns. Perhaps that is even a good thing now every film puts in as many plot changes as possible.

Besides a few descent scenes, the atmosphere is not too good. “Get Out” remains a less than average horror thriller.

American Made – Doug Liman (2017)

Since the “Narcos” series, everything around Pablo Escobar and the drug trafficking between South and North America seems to appeal to the people. The director did find an amusing story in that corner though.

“American Made” is another cooperation between Doug Liman and Tom Cruise. Cruise plays Barry Seal, an airline pilot who is hired by the CIA for some covert activities. Soon these activities become even more covert and then Seal is even hired by the other side. Pretty soon he runs a business in which money is coming in like crazy.

Liman turned Seal into an underground pop-star, who initially tries to get out of all his missions alive, but who later got gripped by the gathering of money. He also shows the weird ways of corrupt government agencies and their relations to foreign politics and its legal and illegal allies.

“American Made” is an amusing film about a strange part of recent history and probably a welcome addition to the ‘Escobar franchise’.

Confidence – James Foley (2003)

Here we have one of these hip crime films with a story that keeps trying to put the viewer on the wrong leg.

A group of criminals rids people off their money with elaborate scams. When they accidentally rob a courier of the main local criminal, they need to find a way to get out of the situation without getting killed. This results in them having to perform their art to another influential criminal. A team is gathered and the rest of the film tries to keep the viewer wondering who is pulling the strings.

“Confidence” is an alright film with some typical humor for the genre, a fairly impressive cast and descent acting.