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thriller

Don’t Look Up – Adam McKay (2021)

Listed as ‘comedy’, “Don’t Look Up” has a dead serious message. Student Kate Dibiasky discovers a massive meteorite that is heading straight to earth. The result of the crash will be catastrophic. Together with her professor Randall Mindy, Kate tries to convince the world that the earth has but six more months to live.

The American president finds the timing off. There are elections coming up, so there is no time for bad news. Dibiasky and Mindy decide to use the media. News has so be light, funny and empty, so their message falls dead to the ground; it did not generate enough ‘internet points’.

Slowly but surely the two manage to change the tide and the American president decides to take action. An attempt is made to blow the meteorite out of its course. Then commerce sets in. There is actually money to be made by this meteorite, so let us not blow it up.

Meanwhile the larger audience starts to be divided between people who ‘believe’ in the meteorite and those who do not. It is all fake news of a few rich people who want to take away our freedom after all.

The film has quite a cast. Leonardo Di Caprio, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchet, Ron Perlman, Ariane Grande. The link to the climate crisis is obvious. Is the ‘high end cast’ to try to get the point across? Surely that will fail. We are too much like the people in the movie.

Spiderhead – Joseph Kosinski (2022)

I did not have high expectations of this film, but it is even worse than I expected.

Prisoners can opt to be be transferred to a facility where drugs are tested. This facility has more freedom than state prison. The facility is headed by “Abnesti”. Test subjects have some sort of module on their backs which are used to administer drugs that induce love (or actually: lust), hunger, fear or whatever. Abnesti uses these tests to make a drug that will rid the world off hatred and anxiety. Or so he says.

We mostly follow prisoner Jeff who is subjected to different tests but -of course- sees through the immorality of the system and looks for a way to rebel.

Boooooring.

Archive 81 (series) – Rebecca Sonnenshine (2022)

My girlfriend read something about these new Netflix series. When I heard about involvement of the “Saw” crew, my interest dropped even further than after the initial comment that it is a horror series. But we did watch it.

In eight episodes we follow the story of Dan who restores video material. He is assigned to a job to restore material that survived the fire in an appartement building. For that job he is transferred to a remote building. So, video, a comparison to “Ringu” a remote building and a reference to “The Shining” and did somebody say “Blair Witch Project“? We all know where this is going to. Or do we?

During his restoration work, Dan becomes acquainted with Melody, a film student who goes to an appartement building to make a documentary about its inhabitants. These inhabitants are said to be a close knit group. This is pretty clear from the beginning.

Melody is actually looking for her mother and while poking around in the building and the people who live there, something uncanny starts to rise to the surface. We follow the story by Melody’s film material and Dan watching it all with a friend as backup to find background information.

As we continue, everything seems to be connected in some odd way. Dan did not get the job by accident. The material did not pop up many years after the fire by accident. The fire in the building was not an accident.

The series have an alright atmosphere. It is by far not as scary as some want us to believe. The story is worked out fairly well. The last episode is somewhat weak.

In my opinion not the instant classic that some people make of it, just an alright thriller series with some horror elements.

Inexorable – Fabrice du Welz (2021)

Because of the great “Calvaire” (2004) I still associate the name of Du Welz with dark and weird movies. That is certainly not something I can say about “Inexorable”…

The famous writer Marcel and his wife and publisher Jeanne move in to the massive estate of Jeanne’s recently deceased father who was a successful publisher of books. The day they move in, they meet the young woman Gloria.

Gloria proves to be a fan and obviously tries to work herself into the family. Can you guess too how the film will evolve?

With no surprises “Inexorable” unrolls its story with here and there some tension.

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.

Bacurau – Dornelles & Finho (2019)

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The beautiful Teresa travels back to her remote Brazilian village of birth Bacurau when her grandmother passed away. Bacurau suffers the progress of the city of São Paulo. A dam was built which cut off all water supply for the village. The inhabitants have to get it elsewhere with tanker trucks, while the dam is heavily guarded.

The death of the grandmother brings a nice peek into the Brazilian rural funerary customs. In general, you can see a closely lit, countryside community.

There are a few weird things though and the film slowly crawls towards being a thriller. That part of the story is a bit far-fetched.

Especially the parts of the Brazilian country life are nice to watch. There is some humour, serious tones and in some ways explain how the inhabitants react to the incoming threat.

Stranger Things – Matt & Ross Duffer (series, season 1-3 2016-2018)

These Netflix series are so popular that I was in doubt whether or not to watch them. So in the end I did and I really enjoyed the first season. The series have a total 1980’ies vibe with a 1980’ies soundtrack, old cars, outdated haircuts and terrible cloths.

Big roles are for children (nerdy kids and adolescents), but in spite of that, season one is nice, gloomy, fairly dark and weird. The story is about the small town of Hawkins which houses an institute in which strange experiments are held. And so a story unfolds of a girl with strange powers, men trying to get her and something evil that lurks in the woods.
There are nice 1980’ies details, the story unfolds nicely, the atmosphere is good and even the child humour and child drama works to a certain degree.

The second season puts more focus on ‘the evil’ with again a well-written story and more of a horror approach to the series. Characters develop, unexpected alliances are forged. Also the second season is pretty good.

The ‘other worldliness’ is mostly gone in the third season which became more of a Stephen King type horror/thriller. The kids really are the main characters this time and the story is a lot less interesting.

Season 4 is announced. I suppose I will watch it when it is there, but I hope the creators will not continue the way down.

Red Sparrow – Francis Lawrence (2018)

I think I expected some sort of fempower action movie, but “Red Sparrow” is actually a pretty weak spy thriller.

Dominka used to be a Russian ballet dancer, but after an accident she has to find another way to earn money. An uncle talks her into the secret service and Dominika is sent to a training which is basically to turn young people into prostitutes for the state.

A bit like the 1980’ies erotic thrillers “Red Sparrow” has a thin story which is mostly meant to create scenes with sex and nudity (and humiliation). Jennifer Lawrence (or her body double) is very beautiful, but this does not save the film.

We have fairly well known American actors who pretend to be Russians. Russia is portrayed pretty much as an amateur country that abuses its citizens. All Russians speak English (with an accent).

Then we have a story that reminds of the recently reviewed “Anna“. Dominika is sent to all kinds of dirty jobs, spies on the enemy, but appears to become a double spy so the question is raised where here allegiances really lay. That is not too unexpected, of course she has a master plan.

Where “Anna” is more of an action film (and more interesting), “Red Sparrow” is (like I said) more of a typical spy film. Not very well written in my opinion and not very well executed either.

The Angel – Ariel Vromen (2018)

In an ever actual story we follow Ashraf Marwan who marries the daughter of the Egyptian president. Marwan works himself up into his father in laws government, but when the president dies, he has to prove himself in order to maintain his occupation.

The new president is determined to punish Israel for occupying land outside its own borders. A war in the Middle East is immanent once again (and already) around 1970.

Marwan plays a dangerous game. He is in contact with different sides of the conflict and it is unclear where his alliances lay. Not only risking his own life, but also that of his wife and daughter, Marwan seems to be determined to prevent a war in the Middle East.

“The Angel” is a well made and interesting film and also the viewer is left to guess what Marwan’s real intentions are. He cunningly navigates between different contacts constantly moving between Egypt, the UK, Switzerland and other countries.

The Shining – Stanley Kubrick (1980)

I noticed “The Shining” on Netflix and my girlfriend said she never saw it, so we watched the classic. Apparently it has been a while since I saw it myself, as I did not remember much of it.

I am sure you all know the film inside out, so I do not have to say much about it. For the exceptions to this…
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) will take care of an hotel that lays very remote in the Rocky Mountains. It is so remote, that it closes for the winter season and somebody has to take care of the building in that period. Torrance, his wife Wendy and their son Danny will be those.

Previous caretakers have gone mad due to the solitude and as you can see on the cover, it is Jack that does so this time.

The camera work of the film is great. During the long car drive to the hotel, the surroundings are shot from (I think) a helicopter in beautiful shots. The very 1980’ies colorful hotel is used brilliantly in symmetric shots and bright colors. The endless halls of the hotel give a great feeling of isolation. The music typically shows when a scene is (supposed to be) scary.

I find the film mostly ‘filmographically’ interesting. The atmosphere is good too and Nicholson is even scary when he tries to look friendly. I find the acting of Shelly (Wendy) and Danny (Danny) less convincing, but all in all the film remains at a high level.

Truly a classic!