Thor: The Dark World * Alan Taylor & James Gunn (2013)

Obviously a follow up of the 2011 “Thor” film, but with other directors. Reading back my review of the other “Thor” film, I was not too enthousiastic, but this time I was! I do not know if it was the big screen, the 3D (which did not add all that much, but still) or the alcohol consumed prior to and during the film, the “The Dark World” is a true spectacle. The actors are the same so/and ‘mythological wise’ there is a lot to complain, but there are also nice, subtle mythological references. Besides, since the heathen Gods are victorious, this is a nice way to introduce new folks to the old ways, or…?
This time the dark alfs (leaded by a character with an unnorse name Malekith) try to take advantage of an allignment of the nine worlds. Thor’s earthly girlfriend of the first film stumbled upon the powerfull force called “aether” and Thor has to come and save her. Jane is taken to Asgard where war is waged.
Impressive scifi computer graffics and a lot of spectacle make “The Dark World” an entertaining Hollywood production. Do not get annoyed too much about the mythological inconsistancies, just enjoy the references that are there. Not a must-see, but a good option when you are up for some action spectacle.

Cloud Atlas * Tom Tykwer, Lana & Andy Wachowski (2012)

How unfortunate! That it took me so long to watch this film. I was mostly interested because of the directors, but the 3 hour length held me back. “Cloud Atlas” is a brilliant film though and certainly worth the three hours.
I have not read that much about the film, but the way I see it there are 7 different stories which are cut up and presented through eachother. Stories in the past, the future and combinations between the two. Many actors have 7 parts and there are several indications that the different stories are different lives of the same people. What all (or most) stories have incommon, is that the nonconformistic people are some sort of rebels. The different stories allowed the directors to go from pompous (Matrix-like) scifi to maritime drama, Medieval adventure and harsch humour. The stories in themselves are all interesting and contain some sort of mystery. It takes way up to the end before many things fall into place (but I guess watching the film again will do so even more), since the actors are not always too recognisable and also before there are cross-references between the stories. Overall there is this great Wachowski atmosphere.

Ice Station Zebra * John Sturges (1968)

Other than that I did not learn anything else about “The Prisoner” (as I read somewhere) than that Patrick McGoohan always wears the same cloths and has the same way of acting, “Ice Station Zebra” is an unexpectedly entertaining old film. Something happens on the North Pole and an American submarine is sent out to reach a weather station from below the ice because of an ice storm. The submarine contains some secret agents and a nice combination between cold war espionage and submarine adventure unfolds. Then the submarine reaches its destination and more plots surface. “Ice Station Zebra” is a long film (148 minutes!), but watches as the better 007’s from the time. The film is based on a book and perhaps therefor the story is well worked out. Too bad about the poor closing scene. For the rest a recommended classic.

Brazil * Terry Gilliam (1985)

The title of this film eludes me, but in a 1950’ies looking future, technology and bureaucracy reign supreme. Dreamer Sam Lowry accidentally becomes involved in the resistance movement. Gilliam created a magnificent (sur)realistic imaginary and dark world with great little jokes and weird characters. Things remind quite a bit of Jeunet. Sam’s government jobs are weird, but his dreams are even more so and when it comes to it, the real world is even weirder than his dreams. In brilliant scenes other government officials come to fix Sam’s heating system after the sought terrorist Harry Tuttle (Robert de Niro in probably his strangest part ever) has already done so. A nice stack of other famous actors pass by. The first 75% is great, in the last part things become a bit less interesting and the fact that the DVD started to malfunction did not help. In general this is a very good film, somewhere between “Dark City” and Jeunet. When you like the weirder stuff, be sure not to miss this one.

Sherlock Holmes * Guy Ritchie (2009)

I usually avoid these overly popular films, but since the choice in the airplane was not super, I watched this first film of Sherlock Holmes. There is another one available, perhaps I will watch it on the flight back. “Sherlock Holmes” is actually quite an enjoyable film. A nice, Victorian atmosphere, a bit sleezy and dark, great stages and special effects. The story is adopted to enjoy the contemporary audience and some strange elements such as fighting scenes and adventure making the whole look a bit like Indiana Jones are added. What I found quite irritating is that the director apparently hid a lot of clues in his film, which are all explained towards the end, apparently to give the film a somewhat intelligent content. In any case, Holmes and his assistent Watson fight evil in the form of a man and in doing so dabble with magic and science, wreck things, make jokes and a spectacle, everything for a modern Hollywood production. Not boring, certainly not, but not really my kind of film either.

Nova Zembla * Reinout Oerlemans (2011)

Dutch pride. This film got a lot of attention. It was the first film shot in 3D (but I saw a 2D version), it is about one of the most famous events of Dutch history, filmed by former soap-star Reinout Oerlemans and a role is played by our national beauty Doutzen Kroes. The story is so famous that you might actually know it. At the end of the 16th century the famous Dutch sailor Willem Bartentsz tried to sail to the far East not alongside Africa but over the North. He was aware of the ice, but based on maps drawn by his financier the bishop Plancius he thought that he could manage. An employer of Plancius, after the trip going by the name Gerrit de Veer (Gerrit the feather, after the feather he wrote with), joins the trip to make a report and make everybody famous. He succeeded, because his book became the first Dutch bestseller and people still read it today. It is a bit ironic though, since it is a report of a failed trip, while at the same time a rivaling ship did make it to China taking the southern route. Barentsz and his crew first landed upon an unknown iceland and later ran into an icy island that they named “Nova Zembla” or “new land”. This Russian island still has that name. Seeing that the land is much bigger than expected, they try to sail around north, but the currents in the water make this impossible. Going south the ship gets overtaken by winter and freezes to pieces. The crew decides to winter on the island by building “het behouden huis” (‘the preserved house’). Of course this was not really a holiday and the film shows how the crew sets sail, winters and row back to the unknown island luckily being picked up by another Dutch ship.
The film opens with the typical elements for Dutch films: bad acting and corniness. Lateron things get better. I must say that the settings are done well and the story comes across good too. People expected to see more action, but what you see most are the hardships of the crew, so the film is perhaps more a drama. It is not an overly good film, but not all that bad either.

Predators * Nimród Antal (2010)

The words “Robert Rodriguez presents” and the cover did their trick, I took “Predators” home. Actually this film is an entertaining, but nothing special scifi action thriller. A group of people find themselves in an unknown jungle, fighting an unknown enemy. Things remind a bit of the series “Lost” but then worked out more in an actionfilm direction. The obligatory story unfolds. The American takes the lead, the leader and the only woman in the group go through phases of attraction and animosity and there is the obvious surprise. The special effects look good, the tension is worked out well too, so besides the unsurprising story (especially when you read about the film!!) is worked out well enough.

127 Hours * Danny Boyle (2010)

My first ‘film on demand’ was “127 Hours”, a film that had been on my list for a while. I must say that this ‘film on demand’ is quite a nice function for digital tv. They have another few titles that I want to see (most of it is rubbish). The only thing is that it is quite expensive. In any case, “127 Hours” is about a young man who travels alone and gets stuck in a cliff for… 127 hours. Imagine that, 5 days! His arm is crushed by a boulder when Aron falls into a cliff. This leaves him, of course, with almost no space to move. The rock obviously is not going anywhere and Aron makes an inventarisation of what he has in his backpack. Inspite of climbing material such as ropes, nothing that helps him getting out of awkward position. Aron proves himself realistic in his situation and inventive as well and he is not ready to give up. Of course the film can be but little more than filming Aron in his cliff, but since he (of course) starts to reflect upon his past and becomes illusionary, Danny “Trainspotting” Boyle has the freedom to add flashbacks and other scenes. The larger part is just Aron and his boulder though. Yet, “127 Hours” is a very entertaining film. When Aron runs out of water and the battery of his camera dies, the film goes towards its inevitable climax.

Shanghai * Mikael Håfström (2010)

During WWII marine officer Paul Soames goes undercover to Shanghai because a colleague is in trouble. Shanghai is the only Chinese city not occupied by Japan, but the Japanese presence is evident and the Japanese in fact control the streets with their violent police force. Soames pretends to be a journalist and tries to work himself into the strange web connecting all kinds of (political) groups, ties that seem unlikely. He soon discovers how his colleague got himself into trouble and has to fight the currents himself. “Shanghai” has the atmosphere of a 50’ies film and the acting and story are alright, but overal it is not a that interesting film. A bit of a history lesson perhaps.

Danger Man (2nd series) * Ralph Smart (1964-1966)

The “Danger Man” series are also known as “Secret Angent” and apparently also as “Destination Danger” and “John Drake”. I wanted to see the series, because main actor Patrick McGoohan quit “Danger Man” to start ‘his own’ series “The Prisoner” and “Danger Man” is often regarded as the forerunner of “The Prisoner”. There are several DVD box versions available and only after I got myself this one, did I learn that “Danger Man” has been broadcasted two time, 3 series from 1960 to 1962 and 4 series from 1964 to 1966. The first series are half our episodes, the second 50 minutes. The box that I got are the 1964/6 series… Even though there is a gap of three years between the two parts of the series, it opens as if the viewer knows exactly who is John Drake and what he does, a flying start for sure. The series end as suddenly as they start by the way, but that could be due to McGoohan’s plan to replace “Danger Man” with a better series. “Danger Man” is one of those secret agent things of that time with the early Bonds, “The Avengers” and the like. The episodes are not related and in each episode John Drake is sent on a mission which he usually completes elegantly. McGoohan is an amusing watch with his enigmatic face and chilled humour. Mixed in is (known from similar productions) ‘high-technology’ (tape recorders in shaving-machines, transmission divises built with parts from suitcases, that sort of things). Most episodes contain a simple plot, Drake’s dealing with it and a sudden end. There are a handfull of episodes with some experiments with the story or the atmosphere that remind a bit “The Prisoner”. Taken as a whole, “Danger Man” is amusing, but I have no immediate need to watch the older series. A funny thing is that the very last episode is the only one in colour and the box has an extra disc with a colour feature of the last two glued together.