Category Archives: drama

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.

Darkest Hour – Joe Wright (2017)

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On the outbreak of WWII the British prime minister Chamberlain is replaced by Winston Churchill, without much enthusiasm of his own party. Especially when Churchill’s rhetoric is about fighting rather than trying to make peace, ways to get rid off him are soon thought of.

Starting optimistically it soon becomes clear that Churchill has to admit that he cannot overpower Germany and when 300.000 of his troops get trapped at the French border, an unpopular way of evacuating them is started (this evacuation is what the film Dunkirk is about).

Some of his ministers want to make peace with (meaning: surrender to) the Germans, but as the people seem to prefer fighting over flying, Churchill pushes his old tactics again.

The film makes a nice history lesson showing a hard politician who was also but a man.

Mysterious Skin – Gregg Araki (2004)

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We follow two boys, Neil and Brian. From the start the stories are shown through each other making it hard to say what is about whom. Neil discovers on a young age that he fancies men and his baseball coach makes sure he does. He grows up finding out that he can make money by having sex. That can only go in one direction, can it?

Brian’s story is less straight forward. The nerdy Brian picks up the idea that he has been taken by aliens and when he sees a documentary about a woman who has been abducted, he contacts her in hope to find more information about his experiences.

Of course the two stories have something in common. It is no big surprise how, but it is worked out nicely and details from earlier in the film, start to make sense later.

“Mysterious Skin” is a descent drama about adolescents.

Lords Of Chaos – Thomas Åkerlund (2018)

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Somewhere around 1990 I rolled into extreme metal. Then in 1991 we hear about the debut cd of the Swiss band Samael (“Worship Him”) and me and a friend started to explore the genre called “black metal”, a Satanic kind of metal. Samael was about the first album that peeked out of the underground, but that underground proved to be vast. Especially from Scandinavia came a plethora of extreme bands with a distinctive style (high pitched guitars, high pitched vocals). There was also a scene in the Netherlands and we soon started to meet the few other people who enjoyed this extreme form of music and philosophy. In several ways it was adversary to other metal scenes. Sure, there was headbanging, but as soon somebody started to try to “pogo” / “mosh” (jump around in front of the stage) or “stagedive”, he was usually kicked out. I remember the bassist of Marduk kicking a stagediver off stage. “No Fun, No Core, No Mosh, No Trends” was the scene motto.

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A Field In England – Ben Wheatley (2013)

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This film has probably been on my wishlist since it came out, but was not too easy to find. It was worth the wait though!

In some British war, an unlikely combination of three men drop out of the fighting and try to make their way to an ale-house one of them saw. Two ruffians and a more nerdy type working for a mysterious master. On their way they run into the person the nerd was after, a dark magician (alchemist) who took off with something that belongs to his master. The magician has other plans with the party.

In a particular field, he hopes to find a treasure and he manipulates the three men into finding the spot and digging it up.

The film looks much older than it is, more like a black-and-white 1950’ies film with rough dialogues and weird characters. The film contains highly amusing dialogues with a lot of black humor. As the film continues there are a couple of very vague hallucinatory scenes. There are some other elements which are not clear if they are meant to be real or imagined.

Indeed, a strange, moody and very enjoyable film.

Chappie – Neill Blomkamp (2015)

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The description for “rebel robot” is more interesting than the film. In a crime-filled future Johannesburg the police uses police robots to fight the gangs that try to control the city. One of the creators of these robots uses one of them to experiment with artificial intelligence and hence “Chappie” is ‘born’.

What I thought would be an amusing action film is a bit of a childish film with cheap drama and a bit of action. The film raises a few questions about AI, but it is all too thin for my liking.