No Time To Die – Cary Joji Fukunaga (2021)

  • action

We got to see the ‘corona Bond’ just before evening lockdown. Postponed a couple of times and now when the new 007 plays in the cinemas, they have to close at 5 PM. So we and a few others made it rainy afternoon movie.

Bond is retired, but of course not really. “No Time To Die” brings back many familiar faces, which is pretty amusing. Fukunaga also introduced the follow-up of Daniel Graig. 007 In “No Time To Die” is not only black, but also a woman: Lashana Lynch. Even though a tough girl, she is still a bit of a sidekick to Graig, so I wonder how they are going to make her the hero of the next Bond.

Storywise there are no real surprises. Well, perhaps some small ones. As we are used to, there is a villain with bad plans for the world and Bond sets out to stop him.

The cliffhanger is pretty much over-the-top, but overall “No Time To Die” fortunately did not become a complete shootout. There are some amusing scenes. Of course there are pretty ladies (Ana de Armas presents one of the sexiest fighting scenes of late) and a cunning plan to decimate mankind.

“No Time To Die” is an amusing film. I do not know if it will become a Bond classic, but of course, it being the goodbye film for Daniel Graig, there is something to remember it for. The goodbye is rather lengthy and dramatic by the way.

Gotham (series) – Bruno Heller (2014-2019)

This has been long ‘in the watching’. Some years ago I was looking for a ‘filler up series’. Something to watch when I had 45 minutes to spare. I figured a “Batman” theme series would be nicely gloomy.

“Gotham” is a ‘prequel’ to the Batman franchise. The main character in the five seasons is not really Bruce Wayne, but rather “GCPD” officer James/Jim Gordon. Gordon wants to do everything correct, but this makes him both a hero as an enemy to many. All this shifting between him being the good guy and the bad guy is not really worked out that well in my opinion.

Of course there is Bruce Wayne. Just as in the movies, he is usually accompanied by his “butler” Alfred Pennyworth. In the first seasons, Wayne is a winy little brat, a bit of a drama queen. Actually this remains mostly so as the series continue. In general, his character is not worked out well enough to carry the series.

The series have characters that you will know from the films. The “catwoman” actually has a name in the series: Selina Kyle who develops a bit of a love/hate relationship with Wayne.

The series contain some themes that are (somewhat) familiar. The authors have tried to ‘foreshadow’ elements from the films. To fill up the episodes there are also a whole range of fairly boring bad guys who want James Gordon dead. These storylines are as unlikely or thin as the next and sometimes they appear and disappear when enough episodes have been filled.

A few characters undergo massive character changes, especially Gordons first girlfriend Barbara Kean, which is not always wildly interesting, but which sure brings a red thread to the series. Worked out better is “Penguin” (Oswald Cobblepot). Quite overdone, but sometimes nicely so, “The Riddler” (Edward Nygma).

In any case, way towards the end, the bridge to Batman is made. “Gotham” as a series is about the city where Batman rose before he did. The series are not great, but not bad enough to stop watching either.

Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. – Gordon Flemyng (1966)

I found this film a bit accidentally. I was looking for a short film on Netflix (this one is 1:26) and noticed a quirky scifi cover and decided to give it a try.

It soon dawned on me that this is a “Dr. Who” film and these “Daleks” are the funny robots with weird voices from which I know the “exterminate, annihilate, destroy” samples. So how I did I miss this in the first place?

Dr. Who has got a time machine and ends up in 2150 London where the Dalek robots have taken over. Together with a few rebels, Who and his companions try to do something back.

The result is a funny film in which the robots are almost human, communicating by talking, needing ‘hands’ to turn knobs, etc. constantly blaring with their funny voices. Also there are amusing stages, a great UFO (the Dalek ship) and very outdated future devices.

Highly amusing. Let me see if there are more such films.

Star Trek (original + next generations) (1979-2002)

After the “Terminator” and “Alien” movie series, we tried Star Trek. More about that here. We only saw a part of the Star Trek releases, the six “original series films” and the four “Next Generations” films. After this came three films with new (young) actors.

The first film is great. The other films of the “original series” are entertaining too, but not too interesting. Sometimes the crew travels back in time to our own time, making jokes about our 1980’ies.

In the first “generations” film we meet both captain Picard and Kirk and this is obviously a transition film. The remaining “generations” films are more contemporary science fiction with mildly interesting stories.

I think in the past I only knew the Picard films, even though Kirk looked familiar. For some reason I had the idea that Star Trek was a TV series. Perhaps I have seen glimpses of either the “Star Trek Phase II” series (1977) with William Shatner as Captain Kirk and/or “Star Trek The Next Generation” (1987-1994) with Patrick Steward as Captain Picard.

Be that as it may, the films are better than I remember the series, but other than the first film, they are not more than entertaining.

Dune (part 1) – Dennis Villeneuve (2021)

Only during the opening credits did I learn that Villeneuve spread the story over multiple films. Of course the film is based on the same novel as David Lynch’s 1984 classic. I see that my review is quite critical and we know that Lynch is not too positive about his version as he could not make it the way he wanted it, but I actually do like Lynch’s version. Maybe even more so than Villeneuve’s!

It takes a while before Villeneuve’s film starts to get elements that I recognise from Lynch’s film. With more length, Villeneuve can incorporate more elements of the book.

You may know the story. There is a desert planet called Arakis that used to be governed fiercely by the “house Harkonnen”. Then suddenly the Harkonnen are removed and government is given to “house Atreides”. We mostly follow the son of that family who – together with his family – travels to the “dune”.

The desert contains a “spice” that has several benefits, mostly economical, so a fierce battle unfolds in which the Harkonnen try to take back the planet from the Atreides while Paul proves to be some sort of Messiah for the local people.

“Dune” reminds me a bit too much of Villeneuve’s “Arrival“. A pomp scifi with bombastic music, overdone dramatics, American patriotism (but worked into the story) and drama-inducing imaginary. It is all quite overwhelming, but to my mind also quite overdone.

“Dune” remains an enjoyable movie if you can stand the ‘genre’. I have no idea when the second part is due and if I again want to see it on the big screen, but I am planning on seeing it when time comes.

Tabula Rasa (series) – Veerle Baetens (2017)

  • drama

This Flemish one season series is up on Netflix. It is created and directed by main actor Veerle Baetens.

Baetens plays Annemie (or Mie) who, after an accident and a suicide attempt, has problems with her short term memory. One day she is found in the woods out of her wits. Because another person has gone missing, Mie is put in a mental institution by the police for the time of the investigation.

In the present time and in flashbacks, we get to know Mie who tries to live with her memory problem while an inspector is trying to get information out of her about the other person that went missing. She does not remember a thing, or does she?

An alright series unfolds in 9 episodes in which we slowly but surely get an idea of what could have happened. Mie also found a way to keep some memories longer and she tries to solve the puzzle herself as well. A few ‘whodunnit’ plot shifts left and right as such a series is supposed to. The impact of the memory loss on Mie and those close to her bring drama to the series, pretty heavily too sometimes. All this is worked out decently.

But then we get the last episode which introduces a major plot shift and immediately starts to explain everything which takes the series down considerably.

“Tabula Rasa” is a fair mystery drama with a very weak ending.

Titane – Julia Ducournau (2021)

It had been a while since I saw an ‘unconventional film’. So when I read about “Titane”, I figured I would go and see it.

“Titane” is not as weird as I expected. It is a difficult film to watch though. In the (French?) style of uneasy films such as those of Marina de Van (remember “Dans Ma Peau“?), Rémy Belvaux (“C’est Arrivé Près De Chez Cous” aka “Man Bites Dog”) or some of Fabrice du Welz (“Calvaire“), but mostly of films of Gaspar Noë, Ducournau comes with a heavy story, explicit ‘body horror’ and sex. You get it, not a film for the faint hearted.

We first see Alexia as a cold blooded and bored kid. We soon jump ahead with her being a strip dancer with obvious psychological problems which have turned her into a serial killer. At some point she decides to go into hiding and pretends to be the long lost son of fire brigade commander.

Alexia’s killings are already quite explicit, but the way Ducournau shows what Alexia and others do to their bodies (and those of others), will make many people turn away their eyes frequently.

Then there are some pretty weird elements to the story that not everybody will get their heads around alongside the fact that many things are left unexplained.

So, quite a masochistic kind of film to watch for sure. It is hard to say if it is really good. It sure is not a film to like. When you know your opinion about the directors and titles mentioned above, you will be able to tell of you want to watch “Titane” or not.

Zywie Belarus – Krzysztof Lukaszewicz (2013)

The film is narrated by the main character. Miron is a youngster living in Belarus, the former Soviet Russian state that has been led by Aleksandr Loekasjenko since 1994.

Miron sings in a poppunk band and explains the thin line between permitted youth culture and illegal activities. You can sing about revolution, but you cannot sing about revolution against Belarus authorities.

At one concert one of his bandmates crosses the line. Many youths have managed to talk themselves out of 18 months of military service, but after the incident Miron is forcibly enlisted and of course, once inside, faces the wrath of superiors who see him as a rebel.

Life in the army is rough, but Miron manages to get information about his daily activities to a friend who starts a blog with amusing stories about conscripts, the different groups within his camp, the poor state of the army, etc.

Of course in reality things are not that funny and conscripts are harassed and abused. Miron manages to stay below the radar and get his stories out. These stories get picked up by youths and media who are not happy about the Belarus regime. When the authorities think the unknown soldier starts to raise too much attention, they figure out who is behind the blog and needless to say, they are suppressed forcibly.

“Viva Belarus” is amusing as a film, but the message is of course not that amusing. With some cynicism the authors give their view on how things fair in Belarus. The result is sometimes violent and give an idea of the balancing act of living under dictatorship.

Duisburg Linea Di Sangue – Enzo Monteleone (2019)

  • crime

This Italian Netflix crime is not bad, but made so little impression that I almost forgot to review it.

In Duisburg, Germany, a maffia killing takes place. Italy sends an investigator to prevent the Germans from making faulty conclusions and hurt Italy’s name. The German colleague conveniently speaks Italian, so even though a large part of the film takes place in Germany, the film is spoken in Italian.

The film revolves around the idea that outside Italy people, including law enforcement, do not understand the maffia, the way they work and the way they think.

And so the German/Italian duo sets out to find the shooters, each with their own experience, but learning from the other.

Not bad, not great. Amusing is a part that plays in the Netherlands.

Stranger Things – Matt & Ross Duffer (series, season 1-3 2016-2018)

These Netflix series are so popular that I was in doubt whether or not to watch them. So in the end I did and I really enjoyed the first season. The series have a total 1980’ies vibe with a 1980’ies soundtrack, old cars, outdated haircuts and terrible cloths.

Big roles are for children (nerdy kids and adolescents), but in spite of that, season one is nice, gloomy, fairly dark and weird. The story is about the small town of Hawkins which houses an institute in which strange experiments are held. And so a story unfolds of a girl with strange powers, men trying to get her and something evil that lurks in the woods.
There are nice 1980’ies details, the story unfolds nicely, the atmosphere is good and even the child humour and child drama works to a certain degree.

The second season puts more focus on ‘the evil’ with again a well-written story and more of a horror approach to the series. Characters develop, unexpected alliances are forged. Also the second season is pretty good.

The ‘other worldliness’ is mostly gone in the third season which became more of a Stephen King type horror/thriller. The kids really are the main characters this time and the story is a lot less interesting.

Season 4 is announced. I suppose I will watch it when it is there, but I hope the creators will not continue the way down.