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drama

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.

Prisoners – Denis Villeneuve (2013)

I am afraid that once more I have to disagree with the majority on a Villeneuve. “Prisoners” currently has an 8.1 rating on IMDb.com. I have to say: not by far…

In a small American town two little girls disappear while playing outside when their parents have a mutual Thanksgiving. After some searching the police is called in and soon there is a suspect. Detective Loki is not 100% sure, but his boss even less so, so the suspect is set free.

One of the fathers sets out for his own investigations, but he is a wee bit too fanatical.

Of course there have to be some new suspects every now and then (one practically drops out of the sky and disappears again) all to work towards the grand reveal which is a bit… uninteresting.

The film has an alright atmosphere, a bit of a thriller/drama, but I really cannot say that it is very good.

The Lost Daughter – Maggie Gyllenhaal (2021)

  • drama

In Gyllenhaal’s full length directing debut, we follow Leda, played by Olivia Colman. Colman played in films of Yorgos Lanthimos, so you know it has not to be too straight forward.

Leda is a literary professor who goes on a working holiday by herself. In a tiny beach community, Leda observes the locals and feels for a young woman struggling with mothership. This reminds of her own struggles over two decades earlier and in flash backs we also get that side of the story.

Leda is initially somewhat distant from the villagers, but she grows some sort of bond with some of them. Apparently this is not to everybody’s liking.

“The Lost Daughter” is a slow and minimalist drama without a big story, but more a look at how people are just people who do not always know why they do the things that they do. This makes an alright drama.

Rocketman – Dexter Fletcher (2019)

Elton John (1947-) walks into an AA meeting in an angel/devil suit and starts telling is biography. Reginald Kenneth Dwight is portrayed as an insecure, somewhat awkward kid with unsupportive parents. Also he proves to be a musical prodigy being able to play on a piano whatever he hears.

His father was a lover of jazz, but Reginalds musical interests spread out further. As soon as he has had some piano lessons he starts playing in soul groups, but he also picks up a taste for rock’n’roll.

As his artistic star rises, Dwight starts to develop further insecurities because of his sexual orientation, in spite of often being in surroundings that have no problems with homosexuality. The more famous Elton John becomes and the more insecure he becomes, the more flamboyant his appearance becomes and so grows the Elton John as we know him.

The film is a drama with -of course- quite some music. Also there are musical scenes. I am obviously not too familiar with Johns music as I did not know much of the music from the film.

The film is very personal and up close, especially for an artist that is still among the living. Only in the closing titles did I see that Elton John himself produced the film. Apparently he wanted to get his own version of his live out before it is too late. One of the tag lines for the film is “based on a true fantasy”, so it surely must be Johns own version.

The film is an alright watch. It provides a nice peek into the colourful world of especially 1970’ies music business.

Tabula Rasa (series) – Veerle Baetens (2017)

  • drama

This Flemish one season series is up on Netflix. It is created and directed by main actor Veerle Baetens.

Baetens plays Annemie (or Mie) who, after an accident and a suicide attempt, has problems with her short term memory. One day she is found in the woods out of her wits. Because another person has gone missing, Mie is put in a mental institution by the police for the time of the investigation.

In the present time and in flashbacks, we get to know Mie who tries to live with her memory problem while an inspector is trying to get information out of her about the other person that went missing. She does not remember a thing, or does she?

An alright series unfolds in 9 episodes in which we slowly but surely get an idea of what could have happened. Mie also found a way to keep some memories longer and she tries to solve the puzzle herself as well. A few ‘whodunnit’ plot shifts left and right as such a series is supposed to. The impact of the memory loss on Mie and those close to her bring drama to the series, pretty heavily too sometimes. All this is worked out decently.

But then we get the last episode which introduces a major plot shift and immediately starts to explain everything which takes the series down considerably.

“Tabula Rasa” is a fair mystery drama with a very weak ending.

Zywie Belarus – Krzysztof Lukaszewicz (2013)

The film is narrated by the main character. Miron is a youngster living in Belarus, the former Soviet Russian state that has been led by Aleksandr Loekasjenko since 1994.

Miron sings in a poppunk band and explains the thin line between permitted youth culture and illegal activities. You can sing about revolution, but you cannot sing about revolution against Belarus authorities.

At one concert one of his bandmates crosses the line. Many youths have managed to talk themselves out of 18 months of military service, but after the incident Miron is forcibly enlisted and of course, once inside, faces the wrath of superiors who see him as a rebel.

Life in the army is rough, but Miron manages to get information about his daily activities to a friend who starts a blog with amusing stories about conscripts, the different groups within his camp, the poor state of the army, etc.

Of course in reality things are not that funny and conscripts are harassed and abused. Miron manages to stay below the radar and get his stories out. These stories get picked up by youths and media who are not happy about the Belarus regime. When the authorities think the unknown soldier starts to raise too much attention, they figure out who is behind the blog and needless to say, they are suppressed forcibly.

“Viva Belarus” is amusing as a film, but the message is of course not that amusing. With some cynicism the authors give their view on how things fair in Belarus. The result is sometimes violent and give an idea of the balancing act of living under dictatorship.

Nomadland – Chloé Zhao (2020)

  • drama

It were not the prices and the accompanying attention that made me interested in watching the film, but the presence of Frances MacDormand who -as expected- carries the entire movie.

Fern lost her husband, her job and all security. Somehow she picks up the idea to get a small van and crisscross the country going where ever work takes her or what ever place she wants to see. Working at Amazon during the holidays season, driving towards the beet harvest, sometimes stopping by at family.

Along the way, Fern meets people in similar situations. They start to exchange tips, tricks, good and services or temporarily live together somewhere in a desert. For some reason, no matter in what direction everybody travels next, they keep running in to each other.

And so we get a roadmovie about a woman living in a tiny van, driving through the vast and varied landscape of the USA having deep conversations with people who still were strangers just before. Zhao shows the hardships of this kind of life. Since what happens when you are far from home and pick up an illness? What the film also shows, is that for many of these nomads the situation was born from necessity, but people enjoy the freedom of this type of life.

“Nomadland” is a calm, beautiful film with a vulnerable McDormand and a whole host of actual nomads that the crew met during the making of the film.

The Monuments Men – George Clooney (2014)

A good film by George Clooney about an interesting part of history.

Towards the end of World War II it dawned upon the allied forced that the Nazis had been collecting and destroying art. Now even on their retreat, they take the art that they price highest with them with the idea of creating a museum. “Entartete Kunst” (“degenerate art”) such as modern are is frequently destroyed.

The American army assembles a small group of art historians to try to prevent culture from being destroyed while fighting and to retrieve what the Nazis have already stolen.

Initially travelling to areas of Europe that have been freed by occupied forces, the group slowly works itself closer to the frontline to be present more rapidly. This is especially necessary as Hitler starts to shout that should he perish, all collected art should be destroyed.

Clooney gathered quite a cast. Himself, of course, but also Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman. He made a relatively light film about the heavy subject of WWII, but one with a message. Mankind’s achievements should not be filtered by the people who happen to be in charge.

Earthquake Bird – Wash Westmoreland (2019)

  • drama

Lucy is a pretty dark haired Swede who fled her past and lives in Japan where she works as a translator. The film has that “Lost In Translation” feel, a tragic, romantic drama of a person living the much different culture of Japan. Lucy is pretty integrated though.

Lucy runs into Teiji, a Japanse photographer who photographs many things, but seldom humans. Lucy catches his imagination and the two fall in love. Lucy is completely taken into her young relationship, but Teiji seems to be a bit easier in the new situation. When an American girl is introduced into Lucy’s group of acquaintances, she is drawn to Teiji as well and the situation quickly gets compilated.

Like I said, “Earthquake Bird” has the slightly surrealistic atmosphere of “Lost In Translation”, but Westmoreland’s film slowly gets darker and becomes a bit of a thriller. Especially when Lucy’s life, thoughts and past start to get mingled, the film becomes slightly vague.

I think “Earthquake Bird” is a descent drama with thriller elements.