Tesla – Michael Almereyda (2020)

Not too long ago but few people had heard of Tesla. Most of those who did probably did not know much more than images with lightening globes. Now that the rest of the world thinks that Elon Musk came up with the name of his cars himself, a biography of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the early experimenter with electricity has been presented.

I am not sure if I knew that Tesla lived in the USA most of his life. He even worked for Thomas Edison (played by Kyle MacLachlan!). Tesla is more innovative than Edison (in some ways at least) and the two have a deep-running dispute about AC versus DC.

Tesla finds new funds, continues on his own and his inventions and investigations become more and more radical. He not only thinks about electricity, but also global wireless communication.

The film shows Tesla as a closed man living inside his own head. When you see all the inventions that are presented, you start to wonder why Tesla is not better known today than he really is. It seems that other people made money and fame with Tesla’s ideas.

The film is a biographical drama with a few ‘out of place’ elements. Not wildy interesting, but not boring either.

The Dark Knight Rises – Christopher Nolan (2012)

Last week I was checking how/if I could watch titles on my wish list. I checked if Netflix already had Nolan’s latest (“Tenet”) and I was suggested the present title. I do not even know if I knew that Nolan made two “Dark Knight” films.

Reading back my review of the other “Dark Knight” film, I was amused by it. Less I can say about “The Dark Knight Rises” though…

Bruce Wayne is old(er) and retired. Quite some people seem to know that he was Batman. Events in Gotham (of course) make Wayne return to his former ‘status’.

We have a very unlikely story with the villain, both his past and his plans for Gotham (mostly the reasons for it). In a bit of a James Bond type of bad guy who wants to ruin the world story with some references to Wayne’s history, a fairly nice, gloomy film unfolds. Too bad that there are boring sentimentalist and moralist scenes and the all-too-human Bruce Wayne is a bit tiring too.

The film is alright, but I do not like the drama much. Towards the end, things get weaker and weaker and what remains is but a pomp Hollywood disaster movie.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore – Macon Blair (2017)

Ruth is a nurse in a nursing home. In her boring life she becomes more and more annoyed by the selfishness of our time.

One day Ruth comes home and finds a burglar in her house. The police go about their routine, but do not really seem to want to try to help Ruth finding her belongings back. With a neighbour, Ruth starts her own investigation.

Ruth and Tony first encounter petty crime, but as their investigations continue, they move up in the chain. A bit of a “Fargo” type story unfolds. Anything that can go wrong…

“I Don’t Feel” is an amusing drama / comedy with some very black jokes.

Noah – Darren Aronofsky (2014)

Aronofsky seems to want to try something different with every film. This time he took a stab at Hollywood spectacle and I must say, this is by and far his weakest film.

Aronofsky make a somewhat odd variation on the famous Bible story about Noah and the Flood. He starts with explaining why there are good and bad peoples. The bad ones seem to refer to our contemporary mentality and are led by Tubal Cain. Noah -of course- is one of the good guys and he has a dream that warns him of an upcoming calamity.

There is a strange element of stone giants who used to be angels and the apparent pretty drastic plans of God with human kind.

Of course Noah builds his arc. This takes about the first third of the film. When the water comes the adventure moves to the vast oceans.

There is the obligatory Hollywood drama and yawn-inspiring morality and sentimentality.

Indeed, if “Noah” had had another director I would probably have never watched it. If Aronofsky wanted to prove that he can make Hollywood drama, he succeeded. In line with his previous films, this really is a wrong turn though.

Lucky – John Carroll Lynch (2017)

In spite of the last name, there seems to be no familial relationship to David Lynch and the director. You may know him as an actor though. That said, J.C. Lynch obviously dove into the world of David Lynch for his debut, picking long term Lynch actor Harry Dean Stanton for the leading part and David himself as an actor too!

Stanton is one of the actors who passed shortly after the finishing of the third season of Twin Peaks, age 91. In that last year he also managed to play Lucky.

Lucky is an old man living in a remote, Southern American desert village. He is a sight in his little town, walking around with his cowboy hat. In the film we see Lucky talking about life, his fear of dying, but mostly, we see a charming old man going through his daily routine.

“Lucky” is a slow, minimalist, slightly melancholic and beautiful drama.

Rest in peace, Harry.

Stonehearst Asylum – Brad Anderson (2014)

Based on a text by Poe and starring Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine and David Thewlis. That has got to be something, right?

“Stonehearst Asylum” is amusing, but not great. The asylum from the title is remote home for the insane in Victorian times. Edward Newgate travels to the asylum to complete his education. The asylum proves to have some oddly modern methods of treating their patients.

Of course things are not as they seem. Newgate slowly starts to unravel the mysteries of the place which is not received with applaus by the people in charge.

The film has romance, humor and thriller elements and -as we saw- a stack of big actors. All this cannot raise the film above the level ‘average’ though.

Not bad, not great.

Advantageous – Jennifer Phang (2015)

Gwen works for a plastic surgery company. She is the face of the company that is in development. Not only are they working on new techniques, but also on reaching a younger audience and Gwen is getting older. She is side-tracked and ready to be sacked.

Life is not easy and Gwen has problems getting by financially. The risk of becoming unemployed is especially burdensome because she wants her high IQ daughter to get a flying start in life.

Initially Gwen starts looking for other jobs, but when that fails, she volunteers to be one of the first test subjects of a radical new treatment.

“Advantageous” is a melancholic and intimate drama that plays in the (near) future.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls – Eli Roth (2018)

This film with an odd name starts a bit like a surrealist children’s film such as Big Fish. Lewis’ parents died in a car crash and Lewis is sent to his strange uncle Jonathan. Jonathan lives in some sort of Adams Family house and proves to be a “warlock” and so the story gets a Harry Potter turn.

So we have a quirky film with silly humor, strange situations and odd characters. These odd characters are played by no less actors as Cate Blanchett and Kyle MacLachlan.

The result is a bit ‘kiddy’, but a pretty amusing comedy. If you like films of Terry Gilliam, Michael Gondry or Tim Burton, this could be a title to put on your list somewhere.

The Professor And The Madman – Farhad Safinia (2019)

Oxford University has a long time wish to make a dictionary of the English language, but the project keeps stranding. At last they hire the outsider James Murray played by Mel Gibson.

Murray has no university degree. He is a self-taught expert in a stunning amount of languages. After some doubt, he can start is the project. He has some unconventional ideas. Instead of reading everything available in the English language to distill words, definitions and thus the development of the meaning of the word, he wants to use the general public to mail cards with words, meaning and sources so they can catalogue and cross-check them.

One of the volunteers is William Minor (Sean Penn), convicted for shooting a man, a mad, but otherwise brilliant man, with a lot of time on his hands.

The story may sound a bit dull, but actually the film is a very well done drama with an interesting story and good acting.

Bottom Of The World – Richard Sears (2017)

We drop in the middle of a roadtrip. The young couple Alex and Scarlett are driving through vast landscapes heading for LA. They stop at some little town to spend the night and from then on things get weird.

Scarlett becomes obsessed with a TV-preacher and later suffers ache which grows the further they get from the town. Then she disappears and Alex sets out to find her.

The film vaguely reminds of “Lost Highway“. It may be not that dark and weird, but story-wise there are similarities. That is about what you need to know. The atmosphere of “Bottom” is mostly drama, with some thriller elements and Alex going mad.

Judging the 5.3 IMdB rating, not everybody likes the film. It may not be a masterpiece, but I found it quite alright.