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Archive 81 (series) – Rebecca Sonnenshine (2022)

My girlfriend read something about these new Netflix series. When I heard about involvement of the “Saw” crew, my interest dropped even further than after the initial comment that it is a horror series. But we did watch it.

In eight episodes we follow the story of Dan who restores video material. He is assigned to a job to restore material that survived the fire in an appartement building. For that job he is transferred to a remote building. So, video, a comparison to “Ringu” a remote building and a reference to “The Shining” and did somebody say “Blair Witch Project“? We all know where this is going to. Or do we?

During his restoration work, Dan becomes acquainted with Melody, a film student who goes to an appartement building to make a documentary about its inhabitants. These inhabitants are said to be a close knit group. This is pretty clear from the beginning.

Melody is actually looking for her mother and while poking around in the building and the people who live there, something uncanny starts to rise to the surface. We follow the story by Melody’s film material and Dan watching it all with a friend as backup to find background information.

As we continue, everything seems to be connected in some odd way. Dan did not get the job by accident. The material did not pop up many years after the fire by accident. The fire in the building was not an accident.

The series have an alright atmosphere. It is by far not as scary as some want us to believe. The story is worked out fairly well. The last episode is somewhat weak.

In my opinion not the instant classic that some people make of it, just an alright thriller series with some horror elements.

Big Bug – Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2022)

Jeunet made another weird and wonderful film, this time for Netflix. As more often with Jeunet, “Big Bug” plays in the future. Not a dark and bleak future, but a bright and colourful future this time.

Contrary to most of his previous films, there are but a few of his go-to actors in this Jeunet. Dominque Pinon is only on screen a split second and François Levantal has a big part, but he only appears in one other Jeunet.

In a not too far future, mankind makes greater use of technology as it does today. Jeunet came up with some amusing concepts. Some sort of little drone that can locate things that have been misplaced, a flying Citroen DS, a talking vacuum cleaner and a robot housemaid. Of course all if very secure.

For different reasons, a group of people are in the villa of the sensual Alice when the robots apparently decided to take over. They cripple mankind by creating a massive traffic jam and then local systems lock people inside their houses because the level of danger is too high outside.

In Alice’s house are some ‘vintage’ robots not connected to the main Yonyx system so not robots are immediately hostile. They are of not much help either, since they do have protocols to follow. The robots have meetings to try to find a way for the people to like them better, so they start to read books, download humour and compassion. You get it, Jeunet has stuffed his film with hilarious situations and odd findings. Laughing robots, a vacuum cleaner trying to seduce his mistress. All things you can safely to Jeunet.

The result is very amusing. “Big Bug” may not be Jeunet’s best, but it certainly is a great watch and much better than most (any?) Netflix-original that I saw so far.

Sound Of Metal – Darius Marder (2019)

  • drama

Ruben and Lou are a couple who also form a band. “Heavy metal” according to the blurb, but I would rather call it “noise rock”. Ruben plays drums, his girlfriend guitar and vocals, a bit in the “nowave” style.

Ruben notices dips in his hearing and they become worse. While touring in their massive camper (RV) Ruben leaves Lou out of his decision to see a doctor. He hears nothing of what the good man says, except that there is a very costly operation that involves implants.

Things get worse and Ruben can no longer leave out Lou. With the help of their manager, Lou ends up in a community of deaf people which aims as accepting the situation (and teaching basic things such as sign language) and not at the problem. This works alright for a while, but Ruben keeps seeing his condition as something that can be, and has to be, fixed.

“Sound Of Metal” is an alright drama which shows a bit of the side of people with hearing impairment. Muffled sounds, no sound at all, sudden spikes, people chatting at a table without being able to make anything from the conversations.

Once Upon A Time In America – Sergio Leone (1984)

Trying to find good films on Netflix, I found an IMDb list with high rated films on Netflix. Of course not all of those are available on Netflix in my country. Also of course, this mostly concerns ‘classics’ and that is exactly what “Once Upon…” is.

In a massive length of almost four hours, the story is told of a group of Jewish criminals in New York who work themselves up from petty criminals to big maffia shots. From the start the group had competition and in this line of ‘work’, competition is a treat.

In a slow pace with quite a cast, Leone tells the story while jumping back and forth in time. The film begins with a violent settlement of business. In the following hours we learn about “Noodles” (Robert de Niro), Max (James Woods), their buddies and their foes.

Of course something happened that triggered the violence, but things are not as they initially seem. Having to come back at the events of 35 years ago, the actual story slowly unfolds for the viewer.

“Once Upon A Time In America” is a descent maffia drama with a few violent outbursts.

Knightfall (series) – Handfield & Rayner (2017-2019)

The story of the Knights Templar in a somewhat historical manner.

We mostly follow Landry who quite against his own will, becomes the master Templar of the Paris temple when his predecessor dies. The first season is mostly about Landry looking for the Holy Grail that the Templars lost during a lost battle at Akko in 1291. During that battle the grail was lost, but it appears to have resurfaced in France.

Landry is a friend to the King of France (Philip IV 1268-1314), but also the lover the the king’s wife (Joan I of Navarre (1273-1305) which is basically the start of a lot of problems.

In spite of the lost battle of Akko, the Templar Knights thrive under the protection of the Pope and the King of France, but raptures start to appear in the relationship. First, the King of France is after the Grail as well, thinking it would increase his power. To obtain that power, he first sets up the Pope (Boniface III 1230-1303) against the Templar Knights and then even replaces the Pope with Clement V (1264-1314). Both Popes, especially the former, have their own agendas of course.

The series make a drama with love, drama, brotherhood, honour, fighting and battle scenes and a lot of intrigue. Here and there there are historical elements, but do not see the series as a history lesson.

Of course the Templar Knights eventually loose their organisation and their lives, but not without a fight.

Not boring, but not great either.

The Life Of David Gale – Alan Parker (2003)

  • drama

Just as other Parker films, “The Life Of David Gale” is a fairly ‘normal’ (as in big audience TV movie) but good film.

David Gale (Kevin Spacey) from the title is a lauded philosophy professor who is also an activist against the death penalty. Two major incidents turn his life into a nightmare. First he is accused of sexually abusing one of his students. Later he is accused of murder. Gale ends up on death row himself.

Days before his execution, Gale asks for the young reporter Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) for an interview about his life. Of course during the three days with two hour interviews all kinds of old and new information turns up and Bloom and her colleague investigate things further. Is Gale innocent?

The story has a few twists and turns which are sometimes well done, sometimes a bit predictable. All in all the film is a descent “whodunnit” drama.

The Matrix Resurrections – Lana Wachowski (2021)

The fourth Matrix is both ‘more of the same’ and some elements have been added and left out. Lana Wachowski made some sort of rewind of the earlier films with scenes that are almost exactly alike and with flashbacks. In general, the first part of “Resurrections” is a bit of a summery of the first film and a bit of the next two.

Thomas Andersson is a celebrated, yet plagued game designer who has had episodes of not being able to distinguish reality from game. So the first three Matrix films are now seen as classic games that sprang from the mind of Andersson.

The company he works for picks up the idea for a fourth part so Wachowski could make some jokes about money and franchise. Of course this is also the step up to Andersson wondering what is real and what is not. Basically the story of the previous films in a slightly updated form.

As we got used to, we have the film playing within and without the matrix and Wachowski has brought back a whole lot of the original actors. Some characters are played by new actors though and the story was adjusted accordingly. The familiar actors bring some amusing scenes.

As you can see in the poster, Trinity apparently did not die in part three and the film is mostly about Neo again trying to find her. Naturally for this he has to find old and new enemies and he encounters new and old people on his side.

“Resurrections” is not the shoot-out that number two was. There is some action here and there which does not look as groundbreaking as in the original films in their time. As I said, there are a few new elements. Also there is a new twist to the whole matrix theme, but do not expect huge surprises.

“Resurrections” is an amusing film, but I do not think it will be anywhere near the classic the original film still is.

Yakuza And The Family – Michihito Fujii (2020)

  • crime

Available on Netflix as “A Family”. It is a very descent, Japanese maffia film.

Kenji is a bit of a petty criminal who by some accident stumbles into one of the two maffia families in his home town after his father dies. The father of that family becomes a surrogate father for Kenji.

The film jumps through Kenji’s life in big strides. We see him as a young man, showing how he became part of the Yakuza. Years later an incident has him put in jail for 14 years and then we jump to the time he got out. The world has changed drastically and being connected to the maffia is no longer prestige, but a massive stain on a person.

The film goes from a bit of a crime thriller towards a drama which is also how the feeling of the story itself develops.

As I said, the film is very descent. Nice peeks into Japanese (criminal) culture, good atmosphere, great camera work. I will have to see what other films Fujii has available.

Paris Window – Amanda Kramer (2018)

Minimalist, slow, weird. Often descriptions of films that I like. I am afraid I cannot say the same for “Paris Window”.

Julian and Sunny are a brother and sister who share a tiny apartment and are a wee bit closer than is ‘healthy’ for siblings. Also they are a little weird. Sunny appears to have to come across and a low IQ girl, but Sophie Kargman does not really manage to get that across. It looks more like somebody making funny faces.

This is quite contrary to Noel Taylor playing Julian. Julian is a way too intelligent, but extremely awkward and paranoid person who never leaves the house. He is obsessed by some sort of self-help hypnosis TV show which forms the constant soundtrack of the film.

“Paris Window” is surrealistic, does not have much of a story and we mostly follow two strange persons. The harmony is disturbed when Sunny meets another person and she grows apart from her brother.

As I said, the film is minimalist, slow and weird, but not in a way that I like. I actually found the film pretty boring and unconvincing. The risk of experimental film I guess.

Freaks Out – Gabriele Mainetti (2021)

We follow a few people with ‘special abilities’ who work at an Italian circus. Then the Nazis take over the country and things do not go entirely as planned. A bunch of them gets separated from the leader of their circus and decide to go and find another local circus looking for a new occupation.

We have a hairy man, a young man who can direct insects, a magnetic man and an electric girl. During their walks through occupied Rome they encounter German razzias, but mostly have quirky adventures and encounters. “Freaks Out” reminds a bit of the work of Jean Pierre Jeunet.

The film is amusing, but do not take too much notice of the historical elements in the story. As the film continues, the focus starts to go to one character in particular who has much bigger ‘super powers’ than the rest.

A nice one when you feel like something light-footed (but not too much) odd.