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 Also there are amusing stages, a great UFO (the Dalek ship) and very outdated future devices.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.

Alien Quadrilogy (1979-1997)

After watching all of the “Terminator” films, I wanted to watch another series of classic films that I either or not saw decades ago. My girlfriend never saw “Alien”, so here we went.

The initial “Alien” (Ridley Scott, 1979) is still a great film. Stages look better than CGI in my opinion. A crew on a ship goes to “hypersleep” for longer journies. Waking up they find out that the ship picked up an emergency signal and went in that direction. Taking a look at the inhabitable planet, one of the crew members picks up an alien lifeform and brings it back to the ship. The alien develops and murders the entire crew, but a handful managed to get away and blow up the ship. This first film is certainly still watch worthy.

9 Years later James Cameron picks up where Ridley Scott left off (“Aliens” 1986). Together with Sigourney Weaver (the main character) as co-producer, we see the crew of the original film being picked up by a space station. There is a problem though. An alien managed to get on board of the fleeing vessel and this time finishes off the entire crew of the space station. Also “Aliens” is a descent movie.

A few more years down the road and Weaver found David Fincher for “Alien 3” (1992). The planet that Weaver left in “Aliens” is now inhabited by humans, but there is no contact, so a crew is sent to see what is up. Of course Ripley (Weaver) is part of the crew. They arrive at the base to find out that there is nobody there. Nobody of course, but a bunch of aliens starting to kill crew members. This third part is more of an action film than the previous, but still with the obvious horror and thriller elements.

The last part of the “quadrilogy” is from 1997 and is called “Alien Resurrection”. This is the most sci-fi of the four. Ridley is cloned including an alien and of course things do not go as the scientists had planned, so the cloned aliens kill off the crew. The last film is in some regards more ‘modern’ than the previous three. This film is directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet. For a Jeunet the film is pretty ‘normal’, but it is great to see some of his ‘go-to’ actors such as Ron Perlman and Dominique Pinon.

All in all I must say that I enjoyed (re)watching the four alien films. The first two are classics, the third is good enough and the ‘closer off’ by Jeunet made a nice surprice.

Nomadland – Chloé Zhao (2020)

  • drama

It were not the prices and the accompanying attention that made me interested in watching the film, but the presence of Frances MacDormand who -as expected- carries the entire movie.

Fern lost her husband, her job and all security. Somehow she picks up the idea to get a small van and crisscross the country going where ever work takes her or what ever place she wants to see. Working at Amazon during the holidays season, driving towards the beet harvest, sometimes stopping by at family.

Along the way, Fern meets people in similar situations. They start to exchange tips, tricks, good and services or temporarily live together somewhere in a desert. For some reason, no matter in what direction everybody travels next, they keep running in to each other.

And so we get a roadmovie about a woman living in a tiny van, driving through the vast and varied landscape of the USA having deep conversations with people who still were strangers just before. Zhao shows the hardships of this kind of life. Since what happens when you are far from home and pick up an illness? What the film also shows, is that for many of these nomads the situation was born from necessity, but people enjoy the freedom of this type of life.

“Nomadland” is a calm, beautiful film with a vulnerable McDormand and a whole host of actual nomads that the crew met during the making of the film.