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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Ryan Coogler (2022)

The second “Black Panther” brings another highly entertaining mix between African culture and science-fiction. Characters in traditional African apparel (at least, in some situations) are picked up by flying saucers, the vibranium that they mine gives them extremely high technology going from advanced AI to impenetrable suits, superhuman power and what not.

The imaginary African state of Wakanda has earned a place in the international community, but actually everybody is only after their vibranium. Then there appears to be another state that is as advanced as Wakanda. This could be an ally or a foe.

Naturally, when another such nation with similar technology is an enemy, this allows for over-the-top scifi action and so it is. African traditions and languages can in this story be supplemented with South American ancient culture. The technology is very imaginative. The action is a bit too much here and there perhaps and the drama is a bit too ‘thick’ for my liking two, but overal this second “Black Panther” makes a very interesting and watch-worthy Marvel spectactle.

Fargo (series) (season 4 2020)

I missed that there was a fourth “installment”. To quote my opening line of season three: “Once again the creators of the series have found an unlikely story in a remote part of the USA.” Well, perhaps not that remote this time, but unlikely the story sure is.

Kansas City has a long line of criminal organisations that share the area. They have a way of trying to keep peace among each other, the exchange of sons. In the 1950’ies the parties are an African American group and an Italian one. The series show how the parties try to keep some sort of balance.

But “Fargo” would not be “Fargo” if there were not a few initially separate, but towards the end connecting, story lines. We have a family with a white father, a black mother and a black way too intelligent daughter (also the story teller). The parents run a funeral home from their house.
Then there is a strange nurse, a nervous corrupt cop, his eerie colleague and two highly dangerous lady criminals.

In a wonderfully meandering story we follow all characters going through strange situations eventually working towards colliding stories. Violence, humour, great camera work, interesting characters.

Indeed, the fourth season is again a good one.

The Aeronauts – Tom Harper (2019)

Amelia Wren is an adventurer in the 1860’ies who flies the skies in a gas balloon. She lost her husband on one of her trips though, so her inclination to fly has dropped. James Glaisher is a young man who cannot convince the Royal Society that by studying the sky, he might be able to predict the weather. Hence, he gets no funding to go up. Needless to say, the two team up.

Amelia just wants to go up higher than the 7 kilometer that the French reached. James wants to make as many observations as possible to collect data.

The film is quite an adventure indeed. The two pass a storm, go well past the French record and their basket below the balloon is full of adventures. Climbing on top of the balloon at -15ºC and at 10 kilometers above the ground; going up too fast; going down too fast; it all is well enough to fill a 100 minute movie that is both entertaining, nice to watch and educational as well.

The Menu – Mark Mylod (2022)

And again I picked a film featuring Anya Taylor-Joy and again she is to play the pretty girl. She gets to play alongside Ralph Fiennes.

Margot (Taylor-Joy) and Tyler go on a hyper exclusive diner. Chef Slowik (Fiennes) has the world’s most expensive restaurant on an island. The richest of the rich take the boat to the island to immerse themselves in the most exclusive food and wine.

The first part of the film is mostly ‘food porn’. Dialogues about the exquisiteness of the cuisine. Then it becomes clear that chef has other plans for the evening than his guests expected and the movie goes from drama, to thriller to horror, of the moralistic kind as well.

Better to not know too much beforehand, but the atmosphere is claustrophobic (as it plays mostly in just one room), bleak and calculated.

Not the greatest film ever, but somewhat original in approach and the result is enjoyable.

The Pale Blue Eye – Scott Cooper (2022)

  • crime

Another ‘whodunnit’ playing in past times on Netflix. A West Point cadet is found dead and nearby detective (played by Christian Bale) is asked to look into the matter.

In a bit of a ‘gothic horror’ style typical murder investigation, the viewer is tossed between suspects and solutions, of course leading towards an unexpected conclusion.

Did the cadet kill himself or was he murdered? What lurks below the surface on this fine academy? In a slow pace and moody, grey images, Cooper introduces and works out different characters, not in the last place Augustus Landor himself.

A nice watch.

Last Night In Soho – Edgar Wright (2021)

  • mystery

A nice surprise. When I picked the film, I did not release Anya Taylor-Joy was in it, so actually there are two nice surprises. I will come back to the first one.

We follow the young Eloise who lives on the country side with her grandmother. She wants to study fashion design in London and is indeed elected to do so. She first moves into a student apartment building, but cannot get used to student living, so she quietly moves to the attic of an old lady.

There is a strange mixture between Eloise and another girl (who is played by Taylor-Joy). Eloise is a bit shy, but wants to move on in the world, Sandie is more of a vamp who knows what she wants and how to get it. Or so she thinks.

The first nice surprise is that the stories of both young women are surrealistically intermingled. Is Eloise dreaming? Does she imagine herself to be Sandie? Or are we watching two different stories, but mixed together in montage? The result is a nicely vague film in which it is unclear how things are until the end. That end on its turn is fairly weak, but for the larger part, the film is certainly worth a watch.

Knives Out – Rian Johnson (2019)

Is it because a follow up was recently launched that Netflix is pushing this film?

“Knives Out” is an old style murder mystery. A family is gathered in a big mansion, somebody ends up dead and a witty detective comes to figure out what happened. So far, so good.

Now the witty detective is Daniel Craig and we also have Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Plummer. You get it, some old-timers wanted to have some fun with an old-time movie.

Like in Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” you get a humorist murder mystery. There are perhaps no surprises (besides -perhaps- “Murder She Wrote” on the television), but “Knives Out” is an amusing, light watch.

Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power – McKay & Payne (series, season 1 2022)

The new supposed-to-be-hype of Amazon is quite unimpressive. The 6.9 on IMdB.com is perhaps not a low rating, but it is hardly a new Games of Thrones.

Speaking of GoT, these new series are supposed to be a prequel to the famous Tolkien stories, but it seems that an attempt was made to create a political war epic in the style of GoT. In my opinion, these series do not really come out very strong either as a Tolkien story or a GoT spectacle.

There are a few interlinked stories. We have the facial expressiveless elf Galadriel who has spent her long life hunting Sauron and his kin. She lands in the land of man and teams up to continue her struggle.

Another Elf, Elrond, tries to use his friendship with a dwarf to prevent his race from going extinct.

Then we have another kind of little people who are visited by a mysterious giant. And of course there are orks, otherwise there would be no battle scenes.

The characters are fairly flat, the stories not very exiting, there are continuous attempts to stretch scenes to enlarge drama. Like I said, it seems that the creators could not choose between Tolkien and GoT and falls somewhat flat somewhere in the middle.

It is not like the eight episodes are completely boring, but I have big doubts that I am going to watch season 2 should it come.

Valley Of The Gods – Lech Majewski (2019)

A bit of a weird film (can I say “arthouse”?) apparently based on a Navajo story. A beautiful valley is inhabited by ‘Amerindians’. It is their valley of the Gods. Nearby is an encroaching city where industrialists have their eyes on some mineral that can be found in the valley. The main company with interest is headed by the wealthiest man on earth who lives on top of a nearby mountain.

John Ecas is a writer with not too much inspiration. Then the project of a biography of this wealthy man (Wes Tauros, played by John Malkovich) comes up, for which he is going to spend some time in Tauros’ castle.

Tauros is not the dogged materialist that you may expect and Ecas also wants to look at the Navajo’s side of the story. Thus a mix between Navajo mythology and utopian/dystopian future Western culture unfolds both in the story and in the way of filming.

An interesting watch.

The Queen’s Gambit – Scott Frank (series 2022)

The highly intelligent Beth Harmon has a troubled mother that first causes her to lose her father and later her mother as well. She ends up in an orphanage at the age of nine. In the basement she encounters the janitor playing chess. Reluctantly he teaches her the game. Beth proves to be a prodigy and her chess-star soon rises.

By the time Beth becomes a young woman, she is played by the beautiful Anya Taylor-Joy.

We follow Beth both as a growing chess player, but also as a young woman coming of age. Sensitive to the temptations of drugs and alcohol, perfectionist, single minded and a bad loser. In the series we see Beth in good and bad times, Taylor-Joy wonderfully portraying Beth’s ups and downs.

Of course the game of chess is central to the series, but I do not know if you will learn much of the game. The plays are extraordinary fast and theories are explained, but my own knowledge of the game are too limited to tell if all that is very educational. The series are set in the wonderful 1960s with colourful wallpaper and furniture, design dresses, odd haircuts, nice cars and new music.

According to the series, the ‘chess scene’ in the USA is of alright level. Beth can make a living playing chess, but the biggest US tournaments are played in universities using “cheap plastic pieces on cheap plastic boards”. Europe is better, bigger tournaments are in Paris. Russia is the top-notch chess country, so the series end in Moskou.

Taylor-Joy is indeed great (she won several prices for her role), other characters (such as Jolene) as well. The creators managed to make chess games actually look tense with a lot of ‘facial acting’. The story unfolds nicely. Indeed a good series that for some reason are listed as “Creating the Queen’s Gambit” on IMdB.com.