Annihilation – Alex Garland (2018)

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The film being categorised “horror” I thought this would be a spectacle, but “Annihilation” is more like “Arrival“. Something weird, unearthly, happens and men are going to investigate.

Somewhere in the USA a “shimmer” occurs which slowly grows larger. This “shimmer” looks like a rainbow waterfall. People who enter to investigate do not come back, until one soldier does. For a new approach it is thought to send a group of female scientists to see if they can find out the cause of the “shimmer” and perhaps even remove it.

The film has a nice, surrealistic atmosphere. The “shimmer” has some strange elements. Naturally some of these are scary, hence the “horror” tag, but these are bit small elements in the film. Similar to “Arrival”, things slowly become clear and the viewer is taken into the investigation and the past lives of the main characters.

Towards the end you get some nice, psychedelic and vague scenes. The end is a bit weak, but overall the film is quite nice.

Gotti – Kevin Connolly (2018)

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As you can see on the cover, John Travolta plays John Gotti. Gotti was an outsider who worked himself into one of New Yorks maffia families. Not entirely satisfied with ‘management’ he sets up a plan to take over when the second in charge passes away.

Travolta plays Gotti in different phases of his life, from relatively young to old and plagued by cancer. Travolta’s face looks… botoxed, but he still manages to convey emotions.

We follow John Gotti from the violent early days when he tried to make a name in the Gambino family. Lengthy parts are about his role as one of the local leaders and then, of course, we move to his moving up in the world and the media attention this brings.

“Gotti” is a descent film about the violent life of New York maffia and the family life that was part of it.

High Life – Claire Denis (2018)

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In this space drama we find a man and a child on a spaceship. In a very slow pace and with a droning soundtrack we learn how this came about.

A group of convicted criminals are put in a ship and sent to a black hole for the sake of science. The trip alone is an experiment, but on the ship further experiments are conducted, not in the last place around fertility.

The film opens nice and surrealistic and the idea in basis is not too bad, but the story contains too many illogical elements and questions to make it very good. Two rather sad erotic scenes do not really help either.

The film certainly is not awful, but neither is it good.

Les Revenants (series) – Fabrice Gobert (2012/5)

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These series have been on my watch-list for a while. Not too high though. They seem to have two international titles. My box says “Rebound” and IMDb has the series listed as “The Returned” which the literal translation of the original French title. There are only two seasons which I find a good thing.

In a remote mountain village a tragedy occurs when a bus with school children drives off a mountain road. This is obviously not the first tragedy. The village lays beyond a dam, a brake caused the village to be flooded.

In the beginning of the series, people that have (long) passed start to return to their own houses, apparently without knowing what happened. Since they missed eight to 35 years, things get clear quickly. Of course returning dead can lead to nothing good, so towards the end of the first season, we move towards darker times.

Then in the second series we have made another of the many jumps in time for a variation of the story. Also there are sub-story-lines that are revisited. Some elements are only mentioned very late and referring back to early in the series, which, looking back, I think I did not get all. This does make the story more interesting and calls for a rewatch at some point.

“Les Revenants” make a descent series with a nicely surrealistic atmosphere and a psychological peek into a community in which something out of the ordinary happens. There is also a lot of drama, especially towards the end.

The Bourne Identity – Doug Liman (2002)

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I bought a box with the three Bourne films. Damon is not really my actor and action not my genre, but they are rated well enough, the box was cheap (and I mixed them up with the Rippley films), so…

Damon is a secret agent who has lost his memory after a mission. While he is trying to find out his identity, his employers set out to kill him as soon as they find out that Bourne is not dead.

As expected, this is an action spectacle with fighting, shooting and car-chases. Amusing at best. The story unfolds nicely, which could be because the film is based on a book by Robert Ludlum.

Not really a high-flyer, but not boring.

Rise Of The Foot Soldier – Julian Gilbey (2007)

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The violent life of Carlton Leach. As a youngster he was active as a football hooligan who liked to kick the shit out of people. Then he gets asked to be a bouncer for a club, a task he violently commits to. When he needs personnel, he gets his old mates. There are more clubs who need cleaning up and then the possibility arises to see to the security of drug deals. Of course then the step to violent crime is but a small one.

The film is full of brutal fighting, going over to torture and when the group gets a problem with the Turkish maffia, things really go out of hand.

The film makes quite a brutal watch. It is unimaginable what violence people are capable of. Of course his ‘work’ seeps into Leach’s private life as well.

Chinatown – Roman Polanski (1974)

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This film is older than myself. Polanski made a descent crime thriller in which a private investigator (Jack Nicholson) is hired for an apparently simple job, but he quickly walks into a swamp of corruption and intrigue.

The story unfolds nicely with new elements, suspects and information as we go along. The film is moody. Of course it has the pace of a 1980’ies film which immediately shows in the tranquilizing opening credits.

Wrong – Quentin Dupieux (2012)

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The director of “Rubber” comes with another weird film. “Wrong” is a bit of a collection of absurd scenes, not unlike some Scandinavian films. After a while some sort of ‘story’ starts to unfold.

Dolph’s dog is gone and he later finds out that it has been kidnapped by some guru who says that people love their pets more when they have been gone for a while.

Dupieux presents a range of oddities that are sometimes amusing, sometimes less so. Overall the film is ‘just fine’ at best.

Angel Heart – Alan Parker (1987)

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A young and not too convincing Mickey Rourke as private detective is hired by the nicely creepy Robert the Niro to find out if a certain man is dead or alive.

The film unfolds as a descent, gloomy thriller in which Harry Angel (Rourke) slowly walks into a swamp of black American culture with first music and later Voodoo.

This works just fine until the very weak end in which Satanism is dragged in and the film has its obligatory ‘surprise’ final. The last third pretty much kills what started off nicely.

Tolkien – Dome Karukoski (2019)

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A fairly emotional romantic drama about the famous fantasy writer Tolkien. We get to know him as one of two unfortunate brothers. Fatherless their mother takes them from South Africa to the suffocating city of Birmingham for lack of money. Life is hard, but mother tells their sons tales, fairy tales and myths. Also both are taught extra after school so Tolkien mastered several languages.

When mother dies, the sons are taken in by a rich woman and they get the chance to attend school and -with some trouble- university. It is also in this house that Roland meets his big love.

The film is about the man, not about his work, so you learn about the friends he meets and the brotherhood they form. All are annoyingly smart and they enjoy themselves with reading and discussing literature and art, writing stories and poetry and the like. Since Tolkien was not ‘high born’ things are not as easy for him as they are for his friends. He even has to let go of his beloved. Worst of all: World War I breaks out and all young, British men are sent to the front, including our four friends. War-scenes are woven through the drama and romance of the rest of the film.

You get an idea of what it all came from for Tolkien, but do not expect to learn much about Tolkien’s work.

A very descent film about an interesting character.