Category Archives: drama

Aquarius (series 1,2) – John McNamara (2015, 2016)

On Netflix I noticed the face of David Duchovny. Back in the days I was a fervent X-Files watcher, but I have not really followed Duchovny after. The cover seems to suggest that “Aquarius” is some sort of “Californication”-type series which I never watched.

Actually, “Aquarius” is a very descent crime/drama kind of series. A wonderfully acting Duchovny plays Sam Hodiak, an old and cynical detective who has been on the police force way too long. His temporary boss is a long time friend and Hodiak has two young colleagues, but he prefers to work alone.

The series play in the 1960’ies and like Tarantino’s latest, it combines a few of the interesting storylines of the period. The Kennedy assassination, the campaign of Nixon, the hippy movement including Charles Manson and the rise of (militant) black movements.

The series are based on true events, but in some cases I wonder if it was smart to use the real names, like in the case of Manson. Especially in the first season he is portrayed as a pimp with musical ambitions. That first season is in most ways the better. Duchovny is great as the blunt Hodiak who also proves to have a social antenna and even emotions. The pace is nice and slow, the storyline is somewhat interesting.

In the second season things become less interesting. ‘Juicy’ elements are added and the series become more typical for an American crime series. Season two ends suddenly as if there were plans for another season that was never made.

Not bad, not great. Duchovky is a great actor though.

The Irishman – Martin Scorsese (2019)

Scorsese made a classic mafia film with classical mafia film actors such as Al Pacino, Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci.

Robert de Niro is the man from the title, a small time man who works himself up in the mafia ranks. Pacino is great at the overheated head of the truckers union and became one of the most powerful men in the USA.

The Italians in the USA have their hands in many businesses, often illegal. When the Kennedys rise to power, they start to get opposition, but fortunately that problem solves itself. Then internal problems occur that need to be taken care off.

“The Irishman” is an alright mafia film that in my opinion needed not to last for three-and-a-half hours. I must say that De Niro does not really convince.

Baraboo – Mary Sweeney (2009)

For a long time have I wanted to see this film. Mary Sweeney is a long time collaborator of David Lynch. She was the editor of some of his films, produced a few and even wrote some. The two were even shortly married.

It was quite an ordeal to be able to see the film. For many years I knew of no way to watch it. It seemed unavailable on DVD or otherwise. A while ago I ran into it on Amazon Prime, but only in the USA. Shortly after, Amazon started selling a DVD, but it is not shipped to Europe! Fortunately I have a way to work around that.

So 10 years after its release, I got to see “Baraboo”. No, I did not expect a dark Lynch-like film, but I sure was curious was this long time Lynch collaborator would have made for her only full-length film so far. The cover suggests a bit of a “Straight Story” approach. (I have not reviewed that Lynch?!?) The fact that Sweeney wrote the story of that film adds to the suggestion.

And indeed, “Baraboo” is a small, minimalist, slow, somewhat melancholic drama, just as “The Straight Story”. In a small and remote American community, we follow a handful of people. A mother who runs a motel, a gas station and a shop. She is friendly with a very goodly man of her age and has an adolescent son. This son is on the brink of derailing. In her motel an elderly local woman moves in. She is very direct and manages to bring all people together with her unusual way of approaching people.

As you can see on the cover, Sweeney used very bright colors. This is in all ‘day scenes’. The many ‘nights scenes’ are dark with little contrast. The atmosphere of “Baraboo” reminds of “The Straight Story”. Likable people who are easy to empathize with, some cooled humor. A small, all American story.

Indeed, a descent drama.

Joker – Todd Phillips (2019)

What an actor. Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who laughs when he cries and Arthur Fleck laughs a lot.

I guess you have heard by now that “Joker” is not a Batman-style (anti-)superhero film, but a pretty heavy drama about a troubled man in a troubled city.

Fleck is a clown for hire, but he is not quite right. Also the rising tendencies between the undercurrent of society and the rich elite, personally affect Fleck. His hard-humoured colleagues do not help his situation either.

When Fleck starts to take the situation in his own hands, he slowly becomes the face of a movement that is not entirely unlike the social uproar that we see around the world today.

“Joker” is mostly a drama and as I said, a fairly heavy one too. Towards the end despair goes over in violence, but do not expect hip action.

True Story – Rupert Goold (2015)

Michael Finkel is a star journalist, but in his enthusiasm he makes a mistake. A new story pops up when a man who allegedly murdered his family, used Finkels name during his flight.

Finkel goes to interview Christian Longo in his cell. The latter proves to be a fan and the interviews give Finkel the impression that a great book could be the result. He does not really have the support of the public, who want to see the man who murdered his family dead and are not interested in Longo’s side of the story.

As Longo’s story continues, it becomes less clear if he really did it and Finkel starts to backtrack the events continuing to interview Longo receive his lengthy letters and writing the book.

“True Story” is an alright drama with some ‘court thriller’ elements as was popular in the 1990’ies.

Bokeh – Geoffrey Orthwein (2017)

This weak drama is mostly an advertorial for Iceland.

A young couple goes to see Iceland. One morning they wake up and everybody is gone. They start to go around the island tossed between panic and a sense of freedom.

The story and the drama do not really work out well. The directors mostly use the situation to display Iceland’s beauty. Recognisable when you have been there, but when you know the spots where scenes are shot, the story is even more unlikely, since the couple seems to be in Reykjavik and the other end of the island on the same day sometimes.

Nothing much to say about the story. The film is a drama growing heavier as the despair grows, but when you want to see some of Iceland’s highlights, you could consider watching “Bokeh”.

Glass – M. Night Shyamalan (2019)

Shyamalan is not exactly one of my favourite directors, but “Glass” has Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis, so I gave it a go. Unfortunately my idea about Shyamalan is supported. “Glass” is quite a terrible film…

The director tried to make a balance between comic and reality. We start with the super-hero and super-villain who both are ‘just above human’. They are apprehended and treated for their condition.

The facility houses three people who think they are super-human comic actors which they cannot be and later of course they appear they can. Some ‘comic logic’ gives the film an annoyingly explanatory feel, so much even that it is actually a drama.

Willis and Jackson do not make the film any more interesting. Acting-wise some praise has to be given to James McAvoy though. His character houses 24 personalities which switch every few seconds.

I am afraid that I can make much more of this film but: boring. I did sit it out, so it was not awful.

The Mule – Clint Eastwood (2018)

Eastwood as director, producer and main actor. That bound to be a film exactly as he wanted. He made some descent films, so why not?

Eastwood plays the old and fragile Earl Stone who always cared more about his fame in breeding flowers and his job than in his family. When that goes awry, Stone needs to find another source of income. Him having been on a road a lot, his new occupation comes to him fairly easy. He starts driving cargo for the drug mafia.

In a slow pace with realistic drama and cold humour, Eastwood tells his story. We see Stone driving the cargo that he need not know what it is and since he is never caught, his cargo grows and grows. One reason that Stone is never caught, is that he remains his own, strange self making him look very unsuspicious, but it works much on the nerves of his employer.

Then we have the other side of the story with the police trying to sabotage the drug trafficking. This ends a bit unsatisfactory (at least ‘story wise’).

The film has no surprises, but like other Eastwood films, “The Mule” makes a nice crime drama.

Thelma – Joachim Trier (2017)

Thelma has had a very religious upbringing in some remote part of Northern Scandinavia. When she goes to school she moves to a city where the student life introduces her to all kinds of things new. People with a different view on life, alcohol, tobacco and love.

The latter seems to cause some sort of fits and Thelma goes to see a doctor. This results in information about her childhood and her family that is new to Thelma, so she digs deeper.

The fits are not quite epileptics and so the film slowly moves from being a drama to a little bit of being a thriller.

The film is nicely shot, with a good telling of the story and a good atmosphere. Some details could have been worked out better, but overall “Thelma” is a very descent film.

The Favourite – Yorgos Lanthimos (2018)

After some very weird films, the Greek director Lanthimos made a very British and fairly normal film.

A sickly Queen Anne is assisted by a ruthless Lady Marlborough who handles affairs in her own way and who has a peculiar way of influencing the Queen.

Then a fallen lady arrived at the court. Lady Sarah tries to restore her nobility and while she is at it, become the Queens favourite in Marlborough’s stead. A bitter feud raises between the two women.

Indeed, Lanthimos made a costume drama in which the only strange elements are the camera-work. There is an over-use of the fish-eye lens and some strange camera movements.

The film makes a nice watch, but it reminds more of a film like “Marie Antoinette” than of the two other Lanthimoses that I have seen so far. Of course a director can play with styles.