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The Young/New Pope (series) – Paolo Sorrentino (2016 2019)

Sorrentino created two short series about the Vatican, produced by Jude Law who also plays the leading part. I guess he really wanted to play the Pope.

The Vatican cannot decide on who will be the new Pope, so as a solution they pick a young (50 years old) cardinal who can be easily directed. Not so. Pope Pius XIII does everything the Vatican does not want. He is not overly progressive, but rather extremely conservative taking the Church back ages in history scaring away the believers in order to create a mystery that will in the end bring them back.

When Pius XIII is just about to become appreciated he is no longer able to lead the Church and he is replaced by two new Popes in the second series, played by John Malkovich.

The series make an amusing critical view on how the Vatican works. The powerful men behind the scenes, manipulation, politics, the way Italian politics try to interfere, how the outside world (women’s rights, homosexuality, Muslim terrorism, etc.) effects the Church.

All this is done with witty dialogues, uncommon choices of music, a thick layer of ‘artsy fartsy’ filming and themes, a touch of melancholy, humour, sensual women, you get it, this is really a Sorrentino production.

Bullet Train – David Leitch (2022)

Brad Pitt returns to the violent action comedy genre as the goofy “Ladybug” who is a former hitman who has retired. He is returning to his old profession though, but he will only do easy jobs, such as picking up a case on a Japanese high speed train (from the title).

But there is also the story of Kimura whose son was pushed off a roof who sets out to find the perpetrator. Also we have Wolf, a Mexican criminal whose family, including his wife, was killed during the wedding. Tangerine and Lemmon are two hip criminals who are also on the train for another job. Needless to say that the storylines get together as the film continues.

“Bullet Train” is a film as we have seen before. Witty dialogues, over-the-top bloody scenes, dark humour, action and a story that unfolds before the viewer. The result is an amusing movie with amusing elements of Japanese culture, Thomas the Train and well-read bad people.

Lucifer (series) – Tom Kapinos (2016-2021)

The devil is on vacation in the city of angels (LA) and he intends to stay. As the playboy Lucifer Morningstar he owns a club called Lux and he has no lack of money. Filling his time with partying and women, Lucifer runs into the detective Chloe Decker who is somehow immune to his “mojo”. Fascinated as he is, Lucifer joins forces with “the detective” in the LAPD.

A long stretched storyline which is bound to lead to a Lucifer/Decker romance unfolds with plenty of sub-plots, laughter and drama. The series start off as a bit of ‘screwball’ with a fairly childish devil who thinks the world revolves around him and who -even though he never lies- nobody believes to be the devil anyway. That will change though.

Lucifers family also starts to visit earth. To mock him, to try to get him back, sometimes to stay. Lighter and darker storylines develop and the inspiration for all that does not seem all Christian, rather Jewish perhaps.

Anyway, some sub-plots are interesting, some less so. The red thread is sometimes interesting, sometimes less so. There are amusing characters, characters that undergo a big transformation during six seasons. Some come and go, some come to stay. The biggest transformation is for Lucifer himself.

There is the obligatory enlarged drama, that for some reason sometimes ‘works’. There are some interesting musical choices in the soundtrack too. Also there are a lot of scenes that made me say ‘fast forward please’. All in all the series are good enough to keep watching.

So drama, romance, thriller, action, it is all there. Highs and lows; making the final score the average:

È Stata La Mano Di Dio – Paolo Sorrentino (2021)

  • drama

There proved to be some productions of Sorrentino on Netflix. I am now watching the “Young Pope” series, which appears to be followed by a “New Pope” series, so I more or less expected “Hand Of God” to somehow belong to that ‘cluster’. That turned out to be wrong.

“Hand Of God” is a drama playing in Italy, spoken in Italian too, about an extended family in Napoli in the time of the heydays of Diego Maradona. Sorrentino shows the sensual and spirited life of Napels with soccer crazy and sun-loving people who like some family members and continuously scorn others.

As we are used to from Sorrentino, the camera work is beautiful and the film contains both chuckles and drama. Story wise, “Hand Of God” is mostly a short period in the ordinary life of a group of Italians.

Byzantium – Neil Jordan (2012)

  • drama

The cover suggests (to me at least) more of a sci-fi or perhaps an “Enter The Void” drama, but “Byzantium” is actually much more like “Only Lovers Left Alive“: a slow and minimalist vampire drama.

Eleanor is a very exuberant woman who has no problems with making money by prostituting herself. Clara is the complete opposite. Still the two have been together for a long time. A long, long time as the viewer soon finds out.

In flashbacks Jordan tells the story of the two women and other characters they have encountered in their lives. Of course the past catches up with Eleanor and Clara to bring some tension to the film.

“Byzantium” is an alright drama with thriller elements.

The Gray Man – Anthony & Joe Russo (2022)

  • action

So that he would not be remembered for playing in slow action films, Ryan Gosling plays in a fast one.

In a typical story undercover agent Six has to retrieve a single object that apparently can cause world destruction. Of course his boss turns against him (or the other way around), so not only the enemy, but also his own organisation hunts him down. Unsurprisingly, Six turns out to be an uncatchable one man army.

In spite of the unoriginal and predictable story, “The Gray Man” is a descent over-the-top action film with a lot of fighting and shooting and not to forget Ana de Armas as Dani and Billy Bob Thornton as the bad guy.

Gypsy (series) – Lisa Rubin (2017)

The ever beautiful Naomi Watts (1968-) plays Jean Holloway, a therapist who has ‘it all’ in life. She is married to a loving lawyer husband. The couple has a big house, a kid, etc. Yet, Jean seems to long for a little adventure in her life.

She starts to look at the other sides of her patients’ stories. One woman keeps talking about her daughter, so Jean sets out to meet her. The same with the ex girlfriend of another patient. Jean also manipulates her reports for work and as her indiscretions start to conflict with her ‘perfect life’, she starts lying to colleagues, husband and friends.

Rubin turned the story into a quite intimate look into the life of Jean. Bathroom shots, her getting ready to go out, masturbating to a fantasy, Watts pulls it all off wonderfully.

Then there is the story to which I think many people can relate. Life can be ‘perfect’, but perfect is also boring. Jean starts to lead two lives. In one she is a reckless woman pushing her boundaries. In the other she tries to be the good wife, mother, friend and colleague. Of course these two worlds cannot remain entirely separate.

The whole series the question lingers: why would she risk her life for fairly flat adventure? The answer is simple: she does not know. Do we always know why we like the things we like, do the things we do? Do we have to rationalise everything? Perhaps Jean should have started doing that at some point.

In any case, “Gypsy” (I have no idea what the title alludes to) is a descent drama series of 10 episodes about fairly day-to-day events and with a wee bit of thriller elements.

The Brothers Grimm – Terry Gilliam (2005)

A couple of weeks ago I visited “Grimmwelt” (Grimm world, a museum dedicated to the brothers Grimm) in Kassel (Germany). There was a movie which was a compilation of fairy tales and I saw a scene with Monica Beluchi that this not look familiar. Then Netflix started to recommend this film. Nifty algorithms!

I do wonder -though- how I missed a Gilliam film. Perhaps I expected it to be too childish?

Just as the museum, the main focus of the film lays on the fairly tales that people remember the Grimm brothers for. But, just as in the museum, you also see some other sides of the brothers. In the museum more seriously so of course.

Not unexpectedly, but the story of the film is not very historical. The famous brothers do indeed collect stories, but they reenact them in order to make money out of them. Then they are led to a haunted forest where things are more real than they expected.

Gilliam wove different fairy tales into the story. Of course there is some humour and romance, but the film is not was weird as Gilliam can get.

Alright, but nothing more than that.

The 355 – Simon Kinberg (2022)

  • action

A female version of “The Expendables”? Nah, the ladies in “The 355” are not that old. But it sure is some sort of women actor reunion action film.

In a typical 007 actionfilm story, a group of bad guys has bad plans with the world and some secret service heroes are going to prevent that. Working for different secret services and innocent bystanders form a team to prevent the sale of a device that can disrupt the entire world.

The film is fairly amusing. Pretty women, action, chasing scenes, just your alright action film and certainly not boring.

Don’t Look Up – Adam McKay (2021)

Listed as ‘comedy’, “Don’t Look Up” has a dead serious message. Student Kate Dibiasky discovers a massive meteorite that is heading straight to earth. The result of the crash will be catastrophic. Together with her professor Randall Mindy, Kate tries to convince the world that the earth has but six more months to live.

The American president finds the timing off. There are elections coming up, so there is no time for bad news. Dibiasky and Mindy decide to use the media. News has so be light, funny and empty, so their message falls dead to the ground; it did not generate enough ‘internet points’.

Slowly but surely the two manage to change the tide and the American president decides to take action. An attempt is made to blow the meteorite out of its course. Then commerce sets in. There is actually money to be made by this meteorite, so let us not blow it up.

Meanwhile the larger audience starts to be divided between people who ‘believe’ in the meteorite and those who do not. It is all fake news of a few rich people who want to take away our freedom after all.

The film has quite a cast. Leonardo Di Caprio, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchet, Ron Perlman, Ariane Grande. The link to the climate crisis is obvious. Is the ‘high end cast’ to try to get the point across? Surely that will fail. We are too much like the people in the movie.