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Saltburn – Emerald Fennell (2023)

The nerd Oliver Quick is a poor student who can go to Oxford on a scholarship. Circumstances make that he befriends the most popular guy at the university, Felix. In spite the odds, Felix really seems to like Oliver and he even invites him to the family castle to spend the summer.

The film begins with an amusing Victorian-pop style. The story soon starts to get too obvious Mr. Ripley elements. Oliver is not as nerdy as he seems to be. The excessive livestyle of Felix’ family is somewhat funny, the but movie is starting to begin to be predictable and the style wears off a bit.

The film is not bad, but not exactly great either.

Suspiria – Luca Guadagnino (2018)

So this 2018 “Suspiria” does have something to do with the 1977 classic of Argento. It is based on, or inspired by it. Watching the 2018 I don’t recognise much of Argento’s film, or anything really.

The young, American dancer Patricia travels to Berlin in the time of the Rote Armee Faktion terror to try to join the prestigious school of Dr. Klemperer (Tilda Swinton). The school has a building in which the dancers live and where they can also perform and receive an audience.

There is a vacancy, as one of the girls disappeared and soon another does as well. It quickly becomes clear that there is something sinister going on. The group of women working for the school appear to form some sort of witches coven.

The film is alright. There are some weird scenes and some contemporary horror, but overall there is mostly a dance school with a dense atmosphere.

Utopia (series) – Gillian Flynn (2020)

In 2015 i watched both seasons (2013 and 2014) of the British series “Utopia“. On Amazon Prime I ran into a series with the same title. When I started to watch it, the Amazon “Utopia” appeared to be a remake of the British series. Or would both series be based on the same (graphic) novel?

The original series is an interesting watch. Bright colours, interesting camera work, violently weird situations. The Amazon version is a fairly normal kid’s thriller series. Both series appear to have about the same story.

Some nerds know about an elusive comic (“graphic novel” in the British series) called “Utopia” which would not only predict past and future pandemics, but also present their cures. When a copy surfaces, the group sets out (meeting each other for the first time) to get hold of the copy. They are not the only people after the book though.

Followed by a similarly cold killer in both series, the group tries to find the main character of the comic book in which they eventually succeed. Together they try to prevent the world-ending events to come.

The British series use two seasons to tell the story (12 episodes), the American version one (8 episodes). The American version is much more explanatory, especially towards the end. Both have an open end. This may be due to the fact that originally there would have been a third season, but the project was dropped, so the creator (and author) of the original series (Dennis Kelly) simply did not write more. According to Wikipedia first HBO bought the rights, but when their project fell through, the rights went to Amazon. They made an adapted version of the original series.

The original is better in every regard. Not that the Amazon version is bad or boring though.

Savages – Oliver Stone (2012)

Ben and Chon are high school buddies. They start to grow weed and after a tour in Afghanistan Chon returns with the best seeds. After some experimentation Ben and Chon created the best weed in the world. Their fame and finances grow rapidly and the two buy a big house at the beach where they live together with their shared girlfriend O.

A Mexican cartel decides to take over their business by force and the paradisal life of Ben, Chon and O rapidly changes into a nightmare. They try to think of way to get out of the situation, but the Mexicans do not take ‘no’ for an answer.

Stone made a decent thriller about a drug that is (ironically) legal nowadays in several countries and states. The underlying message is clear though: since there is a lot of money to be made in drug traficking, the most brutal of organisations try to use the trade to get rich.

Page Eight – David Hare (2011)

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A descent political thriller in which we follow Johnny Worricker a long time diplomat working for MI5. His boss is his former tutor Benedict Baron. Worricker is modest and charming elderly man who knows how the dice roll.

His boss gives him a file which he says is important. During a meeting with a minister the importance becomes clearer, but the implications of the contents of the file only because really clear as the film continues.

In the meantime we meet Worricker’s neighbour, his latest wife and their daughter. Carefull as he is, Worricker tries to get an idea if he is being played and who are is friends and allies. He also tries to build a better relationship with his daughter.

The film is calm, but as the viewer gets a feel of how serious the situation is, the tension rises slowly but sure. That is worked out pretty well.

Leave The World Behind – Sam Esmail (2023)

The hard working Amanda (Julia Roberts) spontaneously books a house for the weekend, leaving immediately. The house is not too far from the city of New York where the family lives and it proves to be a villa with a swimming pool.

Settling in, the first evening the doorbell rings and two people are outside claiming to be the owners of the house and asking if they can come in. The film grows into a psychological drama. Are these two really the owners of the house? The house is so big and they are black. Also, the man seems to know something about the fact that the internet is down.

The psychological drama becomes a thriller when it starts to dawn on the people in the house that there is something going on in the world outside. TV only broadcasts emergency messages. Animals act strangely, there are awful sounds, planes crash. Is the world falling apart while two families who did not yet know each other are stuck in the villa?

“Leave The World Behind” is descent thriller with a Stephen King type story. The alienation and rising panic of the people involved is well portrayed and people’s weaknesses are enlarged.

Then the film suddenly stops as if it is only half of a story.

Money Monster – Jodie Foster (2016)

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A couple of Hollywood old-timers joined forces. Foster as director, George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the main parts.

Clooney is great as the ADHD money-TV-show-host Lee Gates who tells his viewers what stocks to buy and what not. The company of one of his recommendations looses an astronomical amount of money and a viewer who lost his money, comes to the studio to get redress.

Gates is taken hostage live on television and Kyle Budwell tries get those responsible for him loosing his money say that they fooled the investors. In doing so Budwell criticizes ‘the system’ and the role that Gates and the big money companies play in this system.

What starts with fear, grows to sympathy and the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. “Money Monster” is an alright thriller with a contemporary, but not too interesting story.

The Killer – David Fincher (2023)

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Thanks to Filmofiel for notifying me to a descent film on Netflix. A Netflix original even.

We follow a killer for hire on a job. In long monologues the killer tells the viewers about his job, his methodology, his state of mind and the world. His hit goes wrong, though, and he hurries back to his house in South America. There he finds his partner dead. Obviously somebody is after him for the job gone wrong. He decides that is is better to strike first.

Now you may expect a John Wick type explosion of violence, but “The Killer” is actually a very slow, minimalist movie. Nothing we have not seen before, but Fincher worked it out well and the result is a slow and moody action thriller.

The Order – Heaton & Erikson (series 2019/20)

A fairly weak Netflix series that holds the middle somewhere between “Harry Potter” and “Stranger Things”.

Jack Morton lives with his grandfather close to a prestigious college. At this college a secret order is active, the leader of which caused the death of Jack’s mother. The grandfather is obsessed with taking down the order, so Jack not only has to try to get a place at the college, but also to find his way into the secret order.

The members of the order speak quite openly about their secret order and it is basically a school for magic with teachers as teachers and students as students and the students are the “Stranger Things” age.

Jack also gets recruited by another secret order, making him both suspected on both side and a double agent. Of course there is a nascent romance in which both parties are tossed between responsibilities.

The “Grand Magus” has big plans with a powerful magical book and members have to take sides.

Signs – M. Night Shyamalan (2016)

This is actually the first Shyamalan film that I do not dislike. Quite a feat!

James McAvoy plays a person who houses 23 personalities. Speaking of split personality. Or are they 24? McAvoy’s character kidnaps three young women who he holds captive in some basement. The three women (including Anya Taylor-Joy) are presented with different personalities of their kidnapper constantly. A calculated kidnapper, a man with mysophobia, a nine year old boy. They try to play out the personalities against each other in order to get out, but this keeps failing. The wait appears to be for another character, but it remains unclear if this is actually another person/being or yet another personality within “Dennis”.

We also follow “Dennis” as he goes to his therapist, tries to live his life, but also while he tries to reach the goal of the plan with the girls. McAvoy is good in his rapidly shifting characters.

Not the greatest movie of all times, but on the scale of Shyamalan, certainly a descent one.