Ad Astra – James Gray (2019)

A not too convincing sci-fi drama with Brad Pitt as almost sole actor.

In near future mankind has a base on the moon which they use to fly to other planets. Problems coming from Neptune appear to be caused by a mission to that area of many years ago. That mission was led by the father of Pitt’s character and star astronaute Pitt is sent there to see if he can fix the problem.

The film is slow and moody, but the story contains a couple of very illogical elements which take down the film a lot. Even the basic storyline is not too strong.

We mostly follow Roy McBride (Pitt). We hear his thoughts / doubts, follow him on his way to the moon, to Mars, to Neptune. Of course there is some tension and some drama.

The film is not boring, but it certainly is not great either.

Mank – David Fincher (2020)

  • drama

The title of this film refers to Herman Mankiewicz, a writer who starts to write for movies in the 1930’ies. Mankiewicz is played by Gary Oldman.

The film brings memories of Georges Clooney’s “Good Night, And Good Luck” (2005). Both are films playing in Hollywood where entertainment and politics are closer than one may imagine.

In the 1930’ies the political divide in Hollywood appears to have been between Communists and anti-Communists. People gather to talk about films, films of the competition, but also about politics.

In spite of his alcoholism, Mank has a keen observing eye. His writing skills make him a respected man in some regards, but in his drinking bouts he also swims against the tides of people close to him. The fact that he has to write a script in record-time just after having been involved in a car-crash complicates his situation. Apparently he decides to mix his script with current events, something that is not received with applaus.

“Mank” is an amusing film with subtle humour, nice characters, a nice 1930’ies setting and even a message of sorts.

The Midnight Sky – George Clooney (2020)

  • drama

Clooney directed another film with himself in the main part. This time he took a stab at the sci-fi genre. Well, “The Midnight Sky” is not a typical sci-fi. Just one of the two stories is.

In 2049 mankind has managed to kill the earth. In the opening scene people evacuate. We do not learn whereto, but later it becomes clear that the air has become so bad that mankind had to flee underground where it will be able to survive for a limited amount of time.

Clooney’s character works at some sort of observatory at the North Pole and since Augustine is a dying man, he decides to remain at his post to see if he can be of some use in his last weeks. It turns out he is not entirely alone though.

Because this disaster did not appear overnight, mankind has been looking for a place to move to in order to survive. A candidate is a moon of Jupiter. A mission has been sent to K23. So besides Augustine, the film follows the small crew of a ship that has been to K23 and is now on its way back to earth.

The film is alright. Story-wise it makes some sense, things look good, the acting is good, it (of course) has both tension and drama.

Tenet – Christopher Nolan (2020)

  • action

Nolan made a 007-type movie with a super agent, a Bond-girl and an arch villain who wants to destroy the world. Of course he had to come up with a ‘mind-blowing’ theme as well.

So we have bad guys who found a way to manipulate time. This seems mostly in order to make the final scenes in which two times are shown simultaneously allowing Nolan to present pretty far-out CGI which in some ways are as awe-inspiring as in “Inception” (2010).

To get to this, Nolan had to come up with a way too complex theory to explain how that last scene can come to be. Throw in another complex story about how the bad guy makes his money and how he means to end the word and you not only have a vague concept, but a downright hard-to-follow film. At times I got a bit of a “Primer” (2004) feeling. Things may just have gotten a wee bit too complex.

For the rest you can expect some over-the-top action with plane crashes to get to a painting, shootouts, fistfights, romance and everything that you expect from a 007. The film makes an amusing circle towards the end that does make that I want to see this film again some time to see if I can make more sense of the complex story.

Good, entertaining, but after a first watch, a bit too much.

The Bad Batch – Ana Lily Amirpour (2016)

  • thriller

So what did I read about this film that I put in on my watchlist? It must sure come from a bad batch. Boy, what a poor movie this is…

In an apparent attempt to make a slow, dystopian film we follow Arlen. It looks like it that criminals are thrown into a no-man’s-land between the American and Mexican borders. The people trying to survive there gravitate between a hard criminal camp and a more hippy type community.

Arlen starts in the wrong camp, finds her way to the other, but grows back to where she started.

The film has got some gruely scenes, but also throws in some more vague and experimental scenes. Nothing really works except a handful of scenes. The film did not annoy me so much that I turned it off, so I come to a:

Capone – Josh Trank (2020)

  • drama

Not very well received this film about a 47-year-old Al Capone. Tom Hardy is the leading part was the main reason to watch it nonetheless.

I guess many people expected a “Scarface” type maffia film about Capone, while actually this film is a drama about the man’s last year in which he deteriorates rapidly.

Capone spent years in prison. At an early age he got syphilis which starts to seriously attack his nervous system. Capone gets so bad that he is allowed to leave prison and is place under house arrest. There he founds out that his family has serious financial problems and has started to sell items from the house.

Initially Capone is only not too mobile, but for the rest not too bad. It soon becomes clear that the decease also attacks his brain and the rest of is body. Capone’s paranoia starts to take over which results in a few strange dream-like scenes.

Word is that Capone hid a big amount of money somewhere, so everybody tries to pick the information about the whereabouts of the money from the rapidly fleeing memory.

“Capone” is mostly a drama. It has some grim humor partly about Capone’s situation. If you do not expect a maffia crime movie, “Capone” is actually a descent film.

Star Wars (series) (1977-2020)

So my girlfriend likes the old “Star Wars” films and she owned a few of the later ones. A couple of recent ones we even saw on the big screen. So around the holidays season, she bought the remaining films and we watched them all in the order of the story.

I never really gave it much thought, but the films that Georges Lucas himself made, drop in somewhere half of a story that appears to have been (rudimentary) present already. Later, the films were named “episodes” and the first film from 1977 was suddenly episode IV.

So here is the list:

Read More »Star Wars (series) (1977-2020)

Babel – Alejandro González Iñárritu (2006)

My girlfriend bought “Babel” quite a while back, but since I find Iñárritu’s films good, but rather heavy (at least, I remember them that way), I did not really feel like watching it.

And indeed, “Babel” is again somewhat heavy. Not a depressive tear-jerker, but certainly not a feel-good movie either.

There are different stories. Some are obviously linked, others only later prove to be linked with the rest.

First we have the inhabitants of a tiny Moroccan village in which two boys play around and make a awful mistake. Then we have the couple Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett) who are on holidays in Morocco when something terrible happens. There is also Amelia, an illegal Mexican immigrant in the USA who takes care of two white children. When her brother gets married in her home-country, she takes the worst decission of her life: she takes the children with her to the wedding. Also we follow the young and deaf Japanese girl Cheiko. Even though pretty, her disability gives her a negative approach to life. Forcefully trying to loose her virgity does not make life easier.

Iñárritu managed shows the wildly different cultures, the Mexican, the Japanese, the rural Moroccan, well. The obvious drama and stress around Richard and Susan brings tension to the film. The heartfelt psychological drama of Cheiko makes the film somewhat heavy.

Another good Iñárritu.

Bipolar – Queena Li (2021)

I usually list films by their original title. IMDb.com does too, but in this case they have not listed it at all. The original title is ‘只是一次偶然的旅行’ (‘Zhǐshì yīcì ǒurán de lǚxíng’) which means ‘Just an accidental trip’. Indeed, a way different title from the international title. The original title does give a good summery of the film.

Kun is a young, Chinese woman who goes on a pilgrimage to Tibet. On her way, she ‘meets’ a holy lobster in a tank in a hotel. She decides to take the lobster back to the sea. Rather than driving towards the coast, she drives into the Himalayas.

The film is shot in black and white with every now and then a scene with very bright (hallucinatory) colors. Most scenes are a bit weird, but the film is not as weird or hilarious as some describe it. I would say it is a somewhat quirky arthouse roadmovie.

The VVitch – Robert Eggers (2015)

What did I miss? What is it that people like about this film? I get a bit of a “Midsommar” feeling. Another such applauded film that only worked on my nerves.

“The VVitch” is pretty boring. A very Christian family moved from England to the new world. The ideas of the father do not entirely work with the rest of the village so they move to a remote place in a forest.

Praying day and night, seeing the Devil’s work everywhere, the family works itself into the ground. The only positive thing is the presence of Anya Taylor-Joy. The story is boring, the acting is boring, there is no atmosphere…

I guess I missed something.