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White Noise – Noah Baumbach (2022)

The name of Baumbach does not immediately ring bells, but I reviewed two hof his films before. “White Noise” is again a ‘somewhat different’ kind of film. Just as in “Marriage Story“, Adam Driver is in it.

“White Noise” is an amusing, absurd comedy. Driver is a professor on Hitler on some prestigious university. A colleague of his teaches Elvis. When this is not enough of a clue that the story should not be taken entirely seriously, the people in the film constantly bombard each other with intelligent dialogues and strange ‘mundanities’.

Then a truck with chemicals collides with a train with chemicals, resulting in a toxic cloud that floats towards the little town where Jack’s family lives. Initially trying to stay cool, panic takes over and the whole town flees to another town to take shelter. How harmful for everyone were these events exactly?

Then the film switches to an entirely different subject. Jack’s wife is afraid of death and is treated for her condition in quite an unusual way. This brings the film another odd turn.

Indeed, do not expect an easy coherent story, rather just let the absurdity and intellectual humor pass by. I actually quite enjoyed this film.

Guardians Of The Galaxy – James Gunn (2014)

The Marvel franchise needed a couple of new heroes, so in “Guardians Of The Galaxy” we follow a bunch of space criminals who have to work together. Initially to break out of prison, but then to save the universe.

The only link to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” appears to be that the globe that everybody is after, contains one of the “infinity stones”. Needless to say that some bad guy wants that globe to destroy the universe and the group of new heroes thinks that is a bad idea.

We have a ‘normal man’, a green woman, a rodent with a walking tree and a hulk type brute. Strange characters reminding a bit of Star Wars fill the screen. There is of course action, but all very ‘spacey’. Nothing too great.

Death Race: Beyond Anarchy – Don Michael Paul (2018)

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I fell for the “Mad Max” type cover for the film on Netflix. “Beyond Anarchy” proves to be the fourth film in a long franchise of “Death Race” movies. It seems that none of the others is available on Netflix in my country.

Indeed a “Mad Max” type story, with a lot of “Running Man” (1987). In a dystopian future, heavy criminals are put behind a massive, walled part of the city. There they built their own economy which heavily leans on a spectacular race in which contestants try to kill each other. The races are professionally filmed and streamed on the dark web. A large part of the income of the city comes from gambling. Outside authorities try to get rid off the leader of that criminal town by driving him to death during one of the races.

The film tries a bit too much to present tough people with ‘heavy’ music (that is not very heavy) and overly ‘tough’ language, nudity and violence. The result is a so-so movie. Alright when you are up for a ‘dystopia’, but certainly not one of the better movies in the style.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Sam Raimi (2022)

I watched this Marvel ill-prepared. I was going to watch something else and decided to switch the last minute and this one was in the watch-list.

It is by and far the weakest Marvel that I saw so far. The movie is more of a Harry Potter type magical fantasy, but more pompous. Dr. Strange is some sorcerer who encounters a girl being chased by a monster. There appears to be another sorcerer in the neighborhood and the two take the girl to their temple of sorcerers.

Dr. Strange goes to consult his ex-wife who proves to be the most mighty of black magicians and she is after the girl’s powers. The girl has the ability to jump between different universes and so there is an “Inception” like chase through “the multiverse of madness”. This of course leads to a visual spectacle which is quite unimpressing.

Had I prepared myself a little better, I would have known that there have been Dr. Strange movies since the 1970’ies and this one is not even the first Marvel. There are almost no references to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, What is somewhat amusing is that Lashana Lynch appears as Captain Marvel, while in the “Captain Marvel” film she is Maria Rambeau. For a minute I thought she was also in the Wakanda films, but she is actually in “Woman King“. Also Sheila Atim from “Woman King” appears in this Doctor Strange.

Brand New Cherry Flavor – Antosca & Zion (series 2021)

The strange title for a horror series caught my interest. In this 8 episodes Netflix series we follow Lisa Nova. Lisa had made a short horror film which is picked up by a one-time big film producer who wants to turn it into a feature film. The two meet up, agreements are made and Lou Burke starts to tutor Lisa in the world of movie business.

When it becomes clear that Burke gave the project to another director, Lisa is furious and she hires a witch that she met before to curse Burke. For the curse Lisa has to drink and eat the weirdest things which prove to have a bigger effect on herself than on Burke. Slowly things start to run out of hand.

Early in the series the two creators seem to have taken much inspiration from David Lynch. The atmosphere is dense, dark and weird. With a bit of a Cronenberg note, the series shift more towards more typical horror and my interested started to go down. The ending is particularly weak.

Perhaps it is only good that there are only eight episodes. There are a few good elements, but a bit too many open doors as well. It is not all that often that I get to see something weird, so I rate “Brand New Cherry Flavor” in the middle.

Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny – James Mangold (2023)

I have not really followed the Indiana Jones franchise. Of course I saw the 1980’ies films when I was younger, but there also appear to be 2021, 2018 films and in 2008 even one by Spielberg and with Harrison Ford. I was not all that interested in the latest, but cinema airco and 4D made me pick “The Dial Of Destiny”.

Initially the film appears to have the famous “spear of destiny” story in which Nazi’s try to get their hands on the spear of Longinus, but the object of interest soon appears to be a dial created by Archimedes. In a typical story the bad guys have bad plans for the world and the hero tries to prevent it. Along the lines there is a puzzle to solve that we would nowadays perhaps call a ‘Dan Brown type story’, but of course these puzzles were also elements of the early Indiana Jones films.

There are no big surprises and the story has a few references to earlier films. Not boring, but not really a must-see.

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song – Geller & Goldfine (2021)

This documentary is mostly about a song, but of course it had to also be a documentary about Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) who wrote it.

Cohen was a Canadian Jew who was fond of his heritage. He was a poet who, by the time he was 30, also started to put his poems to music. Soon discovered, his star rose rapidly. Yet he remained -as he said himself- in the margins of popular music.

As a musician Cohan was of course a singer/songwriter with slow, often minimalist and melancholic music. Most characteristic are the lyrics, and Cohen’s deep, warm voice. The documentary has video images of Cohen’s entire career as if he had a cameraman in his surroundings for the entire time. We get a peek into his private life, there are old interviews, people in his surroundings were interviewed as well.

And so we get to the famous song “Hallelujah” with which Cohen had struggled for seven years. By the time he was quite the name in the music business. He had released his material on the big, American label Columbia. “Hallelujah” was part of an album that Columbia thought was not good enough to release though. The song initially did not made it to the big audience, but Cohen did play it at live shows. The song was very religious / spiritual, but since he had so many different verses and kept coming up with new ones, at shows Cohen would sing a much more ‘secular’ version, sometimes even ‘naughty’.

Then John Cale sang the song. He made a mix between the ‘spiritual’ and ‘naughty’ lyrics. His version became better known than that of Cohen. Again later Jeff Buckley made the fame of the song rise to the stars. Especially his untimely death seems to have helped making it a cult-song. When it was used in the popular movie “Shrek”, the whole world appeared to be in love with the song. Cohen himself went in retreat in a Zen monastery and was off grid for several years. After that he made his comeback, he did shows world wide in spite of his rising age. “Halleluja” was a permanent part of his repertoire.

Besides the story of Cohen, you get the story of the song. Several sing/songwriters have been interviewed. Which version did they first hear? When and how did they adopt the song, etc. It has been covered countless times in many different forms ever since.

Geller & Goldfine made a nice documentary in which you get to know Cohen and learn how his song made an impact on the world.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Russo (2014)

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A while ago when I was looking around a bit to see what to watch and I came to a Marvel featuring Scarlett Johansson. I figured that was a good reason to watch “Black Widow“. By now it is clear that the Black Widows is in most Marvel films, even this one which is specifically about Captain America.

Steve Rogers still tries to be the good guy with old values. Values that he finds fading in modern life. For the rest the story is quite typical. There is a mysterious and mighty adversary that Captain Marvel and the Black Widow fight together. Then we have the changed roles in which the good guys appear to be the bad guys and everybody is out to get our super hero duo.

Amusing, with a few notches to the past and close to none to the ‘larger story’. Hence: a Marvel shootout.

Moonage Daydream – Brett Morgen (2022)

Late 2015, early 2016 there was a David Bowie exhibition in Groningen. My girlfriend was curious so we got tickets. Before we got to the date we made a reservation for, Bowie passed away (on 10 January 2016). You can imagine that it was impossible to get tickets for the exhibition after.

I do not remember all that much of the exhibition. I mostly remember images of shows, but Bowie was much more than just a musician. He painted, made experimental movies, played in plays and movies and what not. “Moonage Daydream” is a quite kaleidoscopic affair. It is unclear to me what elements were made by Bowie himself, but the images are experimental, weird and sometimes dark as well.

Focusing mostly on the 1970’ies and 80’ies we see a man compulsively trying things new. He purposely moved around the globe (from the UK, to the USA, to West Berlin) to see if that would affect his personality and thus his art. Also we see Bowie playing with sexuality and gender. When he you think how big an artist Bowie was and how many living rooms he entered with his androgynous and transgender look, it is extra weird that such things still are ‘issues’ today.

But, music, film, we see him painting, there is a lot of old footage, snippets from interviews, etc. Do not expect an informative and chronological summery of Bowie’s life. Some questions are left open and I -for one- waited in vein for the moment that Bowie appeared in Twin Peaks. He seems to have quite a few things in common with David Lynch, so it is not strange that the two knew each other.

Not your everyday artist, at least, not for the whole for his career. Still very successful. Neither did he -like many others- crush below the weight of success. Perhaps he so strongly wanted to keep developing that success or not were of no matter.

A beautiful and colorful documentary about one of the more interesting pop artist of recent times.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron – Joss Whedon (2015)

So I have been looking into this “Marvel Cinematic Universe” a little. It seems that not all Marvel productions ‘tap’ into the ‘bigger story’. There is this “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” which appears to have all new characters for example. Other movies that I recently saw seem to be ‘stand alone’ as well. There are different “phases” in the movies/larger story. Some of these “phases” are linked, others not. In any case, it does not seem to be like that all movies together tell one, big story. There are just references to other films, but basically each film has its own story.

So trying to figure out which one I could watch next, I skipped the earlier two “Iron Man” films (2010, 2013) as the first one seemed to have little to do with the “MCU”. I ‘should’ have rewatched both “Thor” films perhaps. But I chose the second “Avengers”. Here at least different ‘super heroes’ get together, so it has to refer to their separate and connecting stories.

We again see Tony Stark / Iron Man making a bad decision for the world. His -by now- friends have to rescue the world twice. Both times “Loki’s Scepter” has to be recovered from the enemy. It was that scepter with which Stark unintentionally unleashed an AI way more advanced than his own Jarvis. This “Ultron” soon sets out to bring peace to the world, but in ‘machine logic’. This is a bit of a weak part of the film as “Ultron” is an AI, but he operates mostly inside an Iron Man type robot. Destroy the robot, destroy AI? Strange thought.

Anyway, a romance rises between Bruce Banner (the Hulk) and the Black Widow. The Hulk again can sometimes control his powers, but usually not. Thor again fights at the sides of the other heroes which we know from the previous “Avengers”, Captain America and Hawkeye (the only character that seems to have had no film of its own).

There is the usual brutal action. Also there are more jokes than in the previous “Avengers”, so this one is more like the first “Iron Man”. With regards the “MCU” the only thing I noticed of the ‘big story’ is that all the way towards the end, Thor tells about the six “Infinity Stones”. One of them, the “Soul Stone” is housed in the Tesseract that we encountered in earlier movies. Loki’s Scepter has one (“Mind Stone”). From there is went to Ultron. In trying to overcome Ultron it appears that also Ultron’s adversary “Vision” has the “Mind Stone”. Nothing much about all that in Thor’s story though, but he does say that the six stone came into existence during the big bang. There are a few references to Vibranium and Wakanda as well, including an amusing reference that man used Vibranium only to make a discus (Captain America’s shield) while it has much more possibilities (just see what the Wakandians do with it).

The whole “MCU” is quite a maze. This Wiki helps a little. I wonder how people have figured it all out. Be that as it may, “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” is another amusing Marvel, but I would like to see a film in which the larger story is more ‘condensed’ and explained rather than vaguely referred to.