Category Archives: drama

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino (2019)

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Hollywood 1969, a year of heights and lows. Tarantino shows how he would have preferred this year to go.

The main character is Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Dalton is a Western actor who has just past the top of his career. The actual hero of the film is Dalton’s stunt double, Cliff Booth, a part in which Brad Pitt gets to be the cool guy.

Dalton recently got new neighbours, the young and upcoming director Roman Polanski and his beautiful wife Sharon Tate. Tate also gets quite a bit of the story.

Then there is this group of hippies who live in a commune a bit outside Hollywood.

We mostly follow Dalton’s career, his films and his uncertainties. This gave Tarantino the opportunity to film Western and war movies to mix in the film. This is usually in the over-the-top Tarantino style and very amusing.

The story contains quite some drama, but also Tarantino-style dialogues and of course humour and violence. There is a range of famous actors in smaller parts too, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Mike Madson, just to name a few. He also again takes 160 minutes to tell his story.

Not great, but a fun watch.

Small Town Crime – Eshon Nelms (2017)

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John Hawkes (Sol in Deadwood) is great as Mike Kendall, an alcoholic ex-cop who can’t get his life back together.

After yet another drunken night he finds himself in a field and driving home, he finds a heavily wounded girl alongside the road and drives her to the hospital. When his old colleagues do not support his help in the investigation of this crime, Kendall decides to do the investigation himself.

What initially looks like a crime in a small town, proves to be a big muddle of ‘big town crime’ and Kendall works himself and the people he knows right into it.

In a nicely slow ‘Coen-like pace’ with similar harsh humour, the two directors Nelms tell their not too original story in a not too original style, but the result is an amusing film with the humour and violence typical for this type of film.

I Am Mother – Grant Sputore (2019)

After mankind has made itself extinct, in a facility that was built for that exact purpose, a girl is grown from an embryo. The facility is to repopulate human kind.

The girl is raised by a robot that is too human-like for my logic. “Daughter” is taught morality / philosophy and many practical things. “Mother” tells her the next human will be grown when she has learned how to raise a human well enough.

Of course things turn out to be different from what “Mother” tells “Daughter”, so besides drama there is also room for a little bit of action / tension.

The story is alright and is told well enough. The acting and stages are good too. Overall I would say that the film is alright.

Taboo (series) (season 1) 2017

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In the rough early 1800’s London, the supposed dead James Delaney unexpectedly returns when his father dies. Delaney proves to have an elaborate plan to take over his father’s trafficking business.

From the beginning it is clear that there is ‘something about Delaney’, but it is not really explained what. He spent time in Africa and appears to have taken on some of the dark magic of the Africans.

Besides that Delaney is highly intelligent and appears to have some sort of second sight knowing all that is going on in London. His claims to his father’s inheritance brings problems with the allmighty East India Company and even the King, who go to great lengths to protect their own interests.

Along the line it seems that Delaney (also) has two very personal reasons for his actions: getting back on the EIC and obtaining the birth-land of his mother.

“Taboo” (I am not sure what the title refers to) is a nicely gloomy and gritty series with a story that slowly unfolds.

The end is quite open and indeed, a second season is announced for 2020.

Pieta – Ki-Duk Kim (2012)

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It has been a while since I saw a Kim. “Pieta” is not really a film for a hot summer night.

Gang-Do is a young and brutal money collector. When he starts being followed by a woman who claims to be his mother, he very slowly starts to grow a consciousness.

“Pieta” is a drama, but as we have seen before with films from this director, it contains some brutal violence (though not as explicit as in other films).

I found the film alright, but not too good.

Gotti – Kevin Connolly (2018)

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As you can see on the cover, John Travolta plays John Gotti. Gotti was an outsider who worked himself into one of New Yorks maffia families. Not entirely satisfied with ‘management’ he sets up a plan to take over when the second in charge passes away.

Travolta plays Gotti in different phases of his life, from relatively young to old and plagued by cancer. Travolta’s face looks… botoxed, but he still manages to convey emotions.

We follow John Gotti from the violent early days when he tried to make a name in the Gambino family. Lengthy parts are about his role as one of the local leaders and then, of course, we move to his moving up in the world and the media attention this brings.

“Gotti” is a descent film about the violent life of New York maffia and the family life that was part of it.

High Life – Claire Denis (2018)

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In this space drama we find a man and a child on a spaceship. In a very slow pace and with a droning soundtrack we learn how this came about.

A group of convicted criminals are put in a ship and sent to a black hole for the sake of science. The trip alone is an experiment, but on the ship further experiments are conducted, not in the last place around fertility.

The film opens nice and surrealistic and the idea in basis is not too bad, but the story contains too many illogical elements and questions to make it very good. Two rather sad erotic scenes do not really help either.

The film certainly is not awful, but neither is it good.

Les Revenants (series) – Fabrice Gobert (2012/5)

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These series have been on my watch-list for a while. Not too high though. They seem to have two international titles. My box says “Rebound” and IMDb has the series listed as “The Returned” which the literal translation of the original French title. There are only two seasons which I find a good thing.

In a remote mountain village a tragedy occurs when a bus with school children drives off a mountain road. This is obviously not the first tragedy. The village lays beyond a dam, a brake caused the village to be flooded.

In the beginning of the series, people that have (long) passed start to return to their own houses, apparently without knowing what happened. Since they missed eight to 35 years, things get clear quickly. Of course returning dead can lead to nothing good, so towards the end of the first season, we move towards darker times.

Then in the second series we have made another of the many jumps in time for a variation of the story. Also there are sub-story-lines that are revisited. Some elements are only mentioned very late and referring back to early in the series, which, looking back, I think I did not get all. This does make the story more interesting and calls for a rewatch at some point.

“Les Revenants” make a descent series with a nicely surrealistic atmosphere and a psychological peek into a community in which something out of the ordinary happens. There is also a lot of drama, especially towards the end.

Tolkien – Dome Karukoski (2019)

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A fairly emotional romantic drama about the famous fantasy writer Tolkien. We get to know him as one of two unfortunate brothers. Fatherless their mother takes them from South Africa to the suffocating city of Birmingham for lack of money. Life is hard, but mother tells their sons tales, fairy tales and myths. Also both are taught extra after school so Tolkien mastered several languages.

When mother dies, the sons are taken in by a rich woman and they get the chance to attend school and -with some trouble- university. It is also in this house that Roland meets his big love.

The film is about the man, not about his work, so you learn about the friends he meets and the brotherhood they form. All are annoyingly smart and they enjoy themselves with reading and discussing literature and art, writing stories and poetry and the like. Since Tolkien was not ‘high born’ things are not as easy for him as they are for his friends. He even has to let go of his beloved. Worst of all: World War I breaks out and all young, British men are sent to the front, including our four friends. War-scenes are woven through the drama and romance of the rest of the film.

You get an idea of what it all came from for Tolkien, but do not expect to learn much about Tolkien’s work.

A very descent film about an interesting character.

First Man – Damien Chazelle (2018)

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Ryan Gosling is Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. We get a very personal story of Armstrong’s life up until his small step. His relationship, children, constantly moving when he switches jobs, colleagues, etc.

The film opens with a somewhat frightening scene in which Armstrong takes a short flight outside the atmosphere. No smooth and romantic spaceflights, but the claustrophobia, constant shaking, creaking metal, extreme heat and extreme G-forces that an astronaut has to endure. The film does this very well. There is the constant threat that the astronauts will not come back after their ‘day of work’ which is either testing, test-flying or real flights. The family, all living together in a sort of camp, know that too. Yet all astronauts have partners and children.

This history lesson guides us through several Gemini projects and when the Americans cannot keep up with the Russians, more ambitious plans are made, leading to the Apollo missions.

“First Man” is a good, and apparently realistic film about the moon mission of the 1960’ies.