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mystery

Predestination – Michael Spierig (2014)

This film takes the time-travelling concept to an extreme, but the result can be rather described as ‘annoying’ than ‘interesting’.

We follow agents who are sent back and forth in time to fight crime. We follow the recruitment of new agents whose stories are told throughout the film. Every time a new ‘circle’ is added to the film with a new explanation. Towards the end this gets pretty tiring.

Timescape – David Twohy (1992)

An early take on the time travelling genre.

In this very 1980’ies looking film, the single parent Ben takes a few weird people into his house. The group says to be tourists and as the story unfolds, they are not from another place but of another time.

The fairly descent story gets somewhat weird in the second half, but of course ends with Ben doing the obvious and becoming the hero.

Not bad, but also not a must-see.

Mr. Nobody – Jaco van Dormael (2009)

Van Dormael made one of these Hollywood ‘new vague’ films. Think of a pretentious and strange, cut up story like that of “Interstellar” but with the soap of a film like “Magnolia“.

Mr. Nobody is an old man looking back at his life. This is shown in confusing montage. The same (young) man keeps dying and does not. It appears that the (senile?) old man tells different versions of his life, versions how things would have been, would he have made other choices.

The film contains well done adolescent (failed) romance, scifi, pompous philosophy and, like I said, confusing montage. Do not expect an easy film, but an ununderstandable clutter memories. This is done with a more than descent atmosphere.

Indeed, a ‘difficult film’. Not a bad one either.

American Gods – Bryan Fuller & Michael Green (series, season 1) 2017

I found this series because Ian McShane is in it who is brilliant in “Deadwood“. The series seemed strange enough for me to like it. And I did!

Let me start with a down part. The season is only 8 episodes and it looks like half a story. The series is based on a book by Neil Gaiman, so my guess is that the whole story has been divided over two seasons. Had I known that beforehand I would have waited until the entire series are available before watching it.

To the series then. It is not clear to me why a man named Shadow Moon has such a big part in the story, but coming out of jail, he is picked up by a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday, but people who know him call him Grimnir. I leave it to you to guess who he really is. With the identity of Mr. Wednesday in mind, the series make a whole lot of fun.
What Mr. Wednesday represents is one of the Old Gods (a bit out of place in America though) and he is looking for other old Gods to get the influence back that they used to have. There are many, many references to all kinds of mythologies and religions, sometimes obvious, sometimes vague. The story is not about the fight between prechristian religions and Christianity, Mr. Wednesdays opponents are of the like “Mr. World” (a god of globalization?) and “Media” (Gillian Anderson).

In this manner there is plenty dialogue about the demise of wonder and religion in modern man and critique to modern society. This is done in witty dialogues, with good humor and with both subtle references and blunt statements.

And so we have a fairly vague, at times pompous series with elements that make only little sense and elements that start to make sense as the series continue. My guess is that a few things will only start to make sense in season to and I wonder if the story is going to be milked out in an 8+ season series or if the creators will stick to the book.

Season one is very promising and made an interesting watch.

Twin Peaks (series, season 3 2017)

I would be lying if I said that I have been a ‘Peaky’ for 25 years, but it has been certainly more than two decades since I watched the series every couple of years and I have followed Peak-freak groups for many years. These groups, of course, only contained ‘die-hard fans’ when the series had faded from the public eye. Then a while ago there was a stir within the fan base, since, did Laura Palmer not say: “I will see you in 25 years” at the end of the original series? Would Lynch (and Frost) indeed revamp the series? For a while Lynch denied, but either or not persuaded by all the attention, at some point he confirmed that work was done on a new season. Not too much later the filming had actually started, again in Snoqualmie, and people who went there to see what was going on, could see what actors were involved. Actors were confirmed, rumors wandered around the rest and in the end the new season was put out with a massive amount of publicity. Mark Frost even published a book. Suddenly everybody was a Twin Peaks fan and had been one for 25 years.Read More »Twin Peaks (series, season 3 2017)

The Jacket – John Maybury (2005)

And just like several of the last films that I reviewed, “The Jacket” involves travelling in time. Typical.

While serving in Iraq Jack Starks get shot in the head. He does not die, but the hole in his head leaves a hole in his memory, perhaps even in his mind. He needs a dog tag to remember his name and just seems to travel around the country not living anywhere. Not being an easy person to deal with due to his condition, Jack ends up in an asylum of the criminally insane where he is subjected to an experimental treatment. The idea is to peel off his bad side by reprocessing the past, Jack actually travels to the future.

The film starts as a nice, somewhat surrealistic film with a good atmosphere that reflects Jack’s state of mind. As soon as the ‘trick’ is clear this element gets worn out, quite like in the recently reviewed Deja Vu actually.

“The Jacket” is weirder than most of the time travelling films that I reviewed recently, especially in the first half, making it somewhat more interesting. It is not a masterpiece though.

Midnight Special * Jeff Nichols (2016)

It was about time that I saw a good, weird film again. There have been way too few of these recently.

“Midnight Special” is a film that you should not know too much about before you see it. It has a wonderfully unfolding story that is obviously written to put the viewer on the wrong track. This works quite well. Each time the story gets a weirder layer. The pompous fantasy ‘conclusion’ is a bit too much for my liking, but the film is very well done. The few characters in it do not so much develop, but unfold (together with the story).

The film does not get as weird as films can get, but I guess you have to appreciate strange films to enjoy this one. It has this somewhat melancholic atmosphere that other films of Jeff Nichols have, but there is action, drama, thriller and fantasy and all that pretty well done.

The Neon Demon * Nicolas Winding Refn (2016)

The latest Refn has more than one comparison to David Lynch’ “Mullholland Drive”. It is about a young girl trying to find her way in a poisonous, glamerous world (here modeling instead of film), the film is slow, weird, minimalistic with strange, surrealistic scenes and a story that does not quite ‘fit’. Even the minimalistic dialogues that Lynch likes to use can be found in “The Neon Demon”, but of course Refn is also a master of minimalism. Also in both films are high-contrast and bright images. Fear not, though, “The Neon Demon” is not a Lynch clone, it is very much, and very recognisably so, a Refn. He works a lot with face closup and the somewhat industrial soundtrack bring enlarged emotions which worked out pretty well.

The 16-year-old orphan from Georgia, Jesse, goes to LA to try to find her way into the world of modeling. She is immediately picked up as highly promising, this to the dismay of colleages / competitors. Being alone in a big city and in a poisonous world, Jesse is bounced between insecureness and overly-securedness.

The film is ‘normal scenes’ and also experimental scenes, quite like “Under The Skin” that I saw a day earlier. These scenes play in clubs, but also (as it seems) in Jesse’s head. Also the story develops towards a bloody mess.

When you know Refn, the film will have no big surprises. Perhaps it is stranger than his previous work. “The Neon Demon” is a very entertaining film if you enjoy the odd corner of filmmaking.

Under The Skin * Jonathan Glazer (2013)

“Under The Skin” is a very weird film, very slow, very minimalistic and without much of a story. We follow the “female” (Scarlett Johansson) driving around the cities (and later the villages) of Scotland trying to pick up men. When she does, she takes them to some place and a completely surrealistic scene follows only to return to the next pick-up attempt.

The film reminds a bit of “Holy Motors” in weirdness and storylessness, the surrealistic scenes perhaps of “Beyond The Black Rainbow“.

Besides “the female”, there are one and later two motorcyclists who have a part in the dealings of “the female”, or do they? There is no indication as to what their part in the story is. As the film continues it becomes clear that “the female” is not entirely ‘normal’.

As you can see “Under The Skin” is not your ‘average Johansson film’. To watch this you will have to be able to watch a meditative and completely weird film without a story and without much explaning. Like the earlier mentioned “Holy Motors”. Personally I quite like something weird like this every now and then.

X-Files (season 10) * Chris Carter (2016)

Since all successfull and somewhat successfull series from the past seems to get obligatory revamps, it was only a matter of time until it was The X-Files’ turn. For a while there were rumours about a new film. The ninth season aired in 2002/3. Five years later there was a very weak movie, my review of which gives an idea of my history with these series. So, another film with the original actors that left the series before the plug was pulled? In the end, the idea was apparently replaced in favour of making a mini series, so now we have six more X-Files with David Duchovny (who put on some weight) and Gillian Anderson (who lost some).

The first episode opens with a 30-second-intro with Mulder telling about his abducted sister, how he came to work for the FBI and how the X-Files were opened, closed, re-opened and closed again. This first episode and the next are full-blown X-Files in the ‘old style’ with UFOs and conspiracy theories. These theories debunk Mulder’s ideas of his younger years and so he (almost?) becomes the disbeliever while Scully is the believer. This is somewhat annoying, but these two episodes are alright. Then (to give new watchers an idea of the old series?) there is one of these nonsense/comedy episodes followed by a fairly weak dramatic episode. The fifth episode starts with a very actual Moslim suicide bomb attack and slowly moves towards something lighter with Mulder in an unexpected experiment. Just as in the original series a couple of new Mulder-and-Scully’s appear. The series close with a very good episode which fits into the ‘larger story’ with a massive conspiracy. This episode should have been worked out into a film. Perhaps it was, because halfway it suddenly stops. There are some characters we know from before in good and less interesting parts.

I am not sure if these new episodes will please the fans of old. Neither am I sure if these new episodes will attract new viewers for the old seasons. This 10th season is just a mediocre scifi/mystery series based on a concept that was better worked out in the past. That is to way, many of the episodes from the first nine series are good. When you are new to the X-Files, you could that with these new series, since the first few minutes take you right up to speed, but perhaps just watching the pilot from 1993 is a better way of finding out if you would enjoy these series.