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Dawn Of The Dead * Zack Snyder * 2004

I have never been fond of horror films, so I never saw the 1978 original of this film. Watching DOTD I already see why I never watch this kind of horror. The beginning and the end are good, strange filmographic jokes and a nice, dark atmosphere. The rest of the film is slashing and not the least bit scary, atmospheric or anything, just a bloody action film. I usually see these kinds of films as comedies, but after a few hundreds of liters of blood, also the fun goes down rapidly.
The ‘story’ is about a strange epidemic in which people are bitten by a rerisen dead and become ‘undead’ themselves. The undead have to eat living human flesh. A few survivers hide in a mall. They better waited until the undead simply died of hunger, but in order to make the film more interesting, they leave their hiding place and get killed themselves. I wasn’t bored stiff watching the film, but it certainly didn’t rise any interest in the American horror genre. <10/4/05><2>

The Da Vinci Code * Ron Howard (2006)

As regular visitor of these pages will know/expect, I haven’t read the famous book by Dan Brown and I wasn’t really planning on watching the film until it would be on TV some time. A friend bought a copy, so I saw the film anyway. I already expected that I was going to be annoyed by the half- and misinformation in the story. A weird interpretation of the organisation of Opus Dei, an erroneous history of the Knights Templar, etc. This was to be expected. What I did not expect that the story itself is very thin and very predictable too. Besides a few scenes with a nice atmosphere, there is nothing much good about this film and I didn’t even have any good expectations. Nothing more than an all-American mystery/conspiracy film based on a popular book.

Dark City * Alex Proyas * 1998

A wonderfull film that I have seen long ago, but not reseen it on tv. The story is about a city that is made and maintained by an extraterrestial race called ‘the strangers’. They experiment with humans to find out what makes humans different from themselves, a search for the soul. In order to do this they swap memories and change the city to see if this effects a persons personality. At midnight everything is put to sleep and the strangers ‘tune’ a new city. Buildings arise or disappear, strangers go out to erase or add memory with the help of a human doctor (Kiefer Sutherland). The strangers don’t like the light, so everything is always dark, it’s always night. One human seems to be uneffected by the powers of ‘the strangers’ and even has the ability to ‘tune’. Naturally he saves the world.

A great film with a strange atmosphere. However ‘thrillerish’ it is brought as a comedy, but of course not one of these hilaric ones. Really wonderfull!

Der Untergang * Oliver Hirschbiegel * 2004

I would (should) have seen tbis film before, but for some reason it took until I could lend a copy. I am no fond of war-films and this one isn’t really an exception. I suppose you all know by now that this film shows the last days of the reign of Hitler. The film is based on the ‘documentary’ (a long interview) with Traudl Junge. From it seems that Junge wrote a book that was the base for this film. Also she is supposed to have appeared in other documentaries, while I understood that she wanted to give one and final interview before she passed away. The interview was shown on TV under the title Im Toten Winkel (which is reviewed), late 2002, half a year after Junge died. In the interview ‘Hitlers Sekretärin’ talks about how she came to join the nazi administration and how she experienced the last period of the reign of Hitler. She claims she didn’t know about the horrors of the outside, because she was ‘im toten Winkel’ (‘in the dead angle’). The interview may be a boring and tiring watch, but I found it much more interesting and informative than “Der Untergang”.
The film opens with Junge’s job interview and then immediately jumps to the last hours of WWII. The story of “Der Untergang” is not entirely based on Junge’s information, because there are also scenes where Junge could never have been present. We mostly see the bunker in which Hitler lives and gives his orders. We see him loosing his mind (if he ever had it!) and how his subjects grow against him. Because Hitler is also shown in ‘normal conditions’ (playing with his dogs, being charming towards his secretary, being with Eva Braun) this film was/is controversial because it shows that Hitler was a mere human being. Indeed he can be funny at times, but in general the film shows him to be the power-driven maniac with no regard for his servants or the German people which he most likely was. Less common are the scenes in which Hitler and Braun get married and shortly after commit suicide. The scene in which Hitler says goodbye to everybody close to him is the only scene which may rise a little bit of emotion with the viewer. Strange to see (shocking even maybe) is the devotion to the man by -for example- mrs. Goebbels who even kills her children because she can’t imagine a world without national-socialism.
Filmographically I didn’t find the film too much. The acting is a bit dull, the filming is (probably on purpose) with a distance (in the meaning of: too neutral). Not too great and again I suggest the interview with Junge for the more informative part.

Dancer In The Dark * Lars Von Trier * 2000

It took a long time before I finally got to see this film. I did get the Selmasongs cd of Björk when it was just out. However I like some of Von Triers works, I don’t like all of them. Also I heard that “Dancer In The Dark” is a musical and quite depressive, so I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought anymore. A while ago I saw the DVD for a very low price and I couldn’t let it go. Still it took a while before I watched it.

I suppose most of you know the story behind the film? Von Trier wanted to make the film with a soundtrack of Björk. The two of them could get along so well that Björk eventually got the main part for which she even got a Golden Palm award.

Anyway, “Dancer In The Dark” isn’t as much a musical as I expected it to be, no “Moulin Rouge” for sure. It is a rather long film about the poor Cszech immigrant Selma who lives with her young son in a trailer on the American countryside. Besides being uneducated she and her son suffer from a heritable disease that causes them to slowly go blind. Selma saves all the money she can to be able to have her son operated. Herefor she really doesn’t spend a penny too much.

In all the misery Selma halfway lives in a dreamworld in which she sings in musicals. The music is really well incorporated in the film by the way, with sounds of dripping blood or machines as rhythm. The misery gets worse and worse though. Her befriended neighbour steals Selmas money and in the process of getting it back, she kills him. In a trial she is sentenced to death by hanging, but first she arranged her sons operation.

Quite a strange film overall. Original as more of Von Triers works. It is quite well-done, but definately no feel-good movie!

Dahmer * David Jacobson * 2002

This film is said to be based on the true life of Jeffrey Dahmer and wants to give an insight into the person instead of just a film about his gruesome deeds. Well, the first thing is true in a way, the there is only a very small piece of Dahmer’s life to be seen. The film starts when Jeffrey already works in the chocolate factory and no longer lives with his grandmother and ends just before he is caught.

You can see how Jeffrey dealt with his father and grandmother and how friendly and honest he was with people he would or would not kill. Some flashbacks to difficult parts of his life, but all this doesn’t give you a very complete idea of his life. Of Dahmer’s 17 victims you get to see two and a few ‘possibles’.

The idea is nice, a psychological thriller about one of the best-known serial killers, but the result isn’t too fascinating. If you want a biography, you better buy the “Dahmer” cd of the American metalband Macabre!

Daltry Calhoun * Katrina Holden Bronson * 2005

Tarantino, Johnny Knoxville, Juliette Lewis, I felt for it. The title seems to be “Daltry” in Europe (or at least the Netherlands) and “Daltry Calhoun” in the USA. The film is the first of Bronson who also seems to be a beginning actress. Still Tarantino decided to co-produce her film (the reason he could be put on the front of the box), which may also explain why names such as Knoxville, Lewis or Elizabeth Banks joined the club. The obvious and prejudiced expectation with these names and a genre “comedy”, is a violent comedy in the Tarantino style. Nothing like that in Bronson’s film! Knoxville and Lewis prove that they can really act, the story is simple and charming, the humour subtle and the atmosphere a bit dreamlike. I had to think of “Big Fish” when watching this film, even when it is completely different. Knoxville is a far too young father, who is kicked out of his mothers house and leaves his wife and daughter. He decides to start a new and better life and begins a very successfull grass-growing company. 15 Years later his ex and daughter look him up. A nice film. Different than expected, but of course it is only nice to be surprised sometimes and find your prejudices to be false.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon * Ang Lee * 2000

It seems that everybody who sees this movie, likes it. I didn’t, not really. “Crouching Tiger” is a Chinese movie with martial arts and “Matrix-like-filming” (read “flying fighters”). Personally I get a bit tired of people walking against walls and ceilings, but especially when they start flying from roof to roof, it gets a bit too much for me. Conclusion: a family film about Chinese fighters looking for a magical sword.

I am much more curious about the upcoming film “Iron Monkey” which seems to be “Crouching Tiger” in a serious version.

Il Conformista * Bernardo Bertolucci * 1970

An old Italian film about the times that Hitler started to reign over Germany and Mussolini over Italy. The film is about an Italian secret agent who became a fascist at a quite early age. He marries a naive young woman in his aim to become ‘normal’. Their honeymoon is to Paris, but Marcello’s actual assignment is not pleasure, but the assassination of his old philosophy-teacher Quadri who fleed Italy when the fascists took over power. The professor’s wife is Anna Quadri old love who also enchants Giulia, Marcello’s wife. Eventually the killing of both the professor and his wife take place, Giulia finds out at around the end of the film the fascist regime falls and Marcello looses his conviction.
An old film, eh? Not too great.

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind * George Clooney * 2002

The second Charlie Kaufman script (also see “Adaptation”) is also a book put to film. This time it is Chuck Barris’ biography. “Confessions…” is the directors-debut of George Clooney and he is obviously quite influenced by the brothers Coen is whose “O Brother Where Art Thou?” (2000) he played. “Confessions…” first has a similar atmosphere to this Coen film and also their “The Man Who Wasn’t There”.

As said “Confessions…” is about Chuck Barris, the man who came up with the first tv-shows like “The Dating Game” and “The Gong Show”. First you see him in his early days desperately looking for sex. When the tv is introduced, he immediately sees the future in this media and starts at ABC. He comes up with some of the most popular gameshows ever. In the meantime he is recruited as special murder-agent for the CIA by Jim Byrd (played by Clooney himself) and while the film continues, Barris starts to combine his two occupations, but eventually goes insane when his tv-carreer jams and the pressure by the CIA rises.

In the beginning “Confessions…” has a very nice 50/60’ies atmosphere with a subtle kind of humour like we know from the brothers Coen. As the film continues there are very strange and even dark scenes and here and there thrillerish elements. The atmosphere is never forced and goes naturally from one to the other. The colour-setting is very nice, black/white but then green. The ‘setup’ is a bit weird like we may expect from Kaufman. It is both a biography (Barris looking back at his life) and a documentary (with interviews with ex-colleagues etc.). Overall I found this film pretty impressive. It is not brilliant the whole time, but especially for a directors-debut this is close to a masterpiece. <4>