Ocean’s Twelve – Steven Soderbergh (2004)

I remember when this film was shot, even the news mentioned that George Clooney and Brad Pitt were in Amsterdam for filming. Only a small part of the film plays in Amsterdam though, but indeed, a somewhat touristic part that is.

Story-wise “Twelve” is a lot less interesting than the first film, but the fun the crew had is visible. Silly jokes such as Julia Roberts whose character has to pretend to be Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis in a small part playing himself make the film an amusing watch.

The film starts somewhat weak. The man who was robbed in the first film has found all of Ocean’s eleven and forces them to pay him back. So they have to come up with another big robbery to make up for the money.

Hopefully the last part of the trilogy is not yet another step down…

Elysium – Neill Blomkamp (2013)

Somehow I see a lot of Matt Damon films recently. Here he is with no hair again. This time more his usual genre though: action.

Actually this is more of a dystopian scifi. A century from now earth is an overpopulated mess. Rich people have moved to the space station Elysium which resembles earth in better days.

Damon plays a man with a troubled past. After an accident at work he needs to go to Elysium because there are ‘curing machines’ there. With a group of heavy criminals he forges a plan.

The film has a bit of a “Mad Max” atmosphere which is good. The parts with Jody Foster as ruthless minister at Elysium as less strong. There is some annoying drama too and the last 15 minutes are downright awful. A dreary ‘the people you are supposed to sympathize with’ against those you do not.

Not bad, too bad about the end.

Life Of Pi – Ang Lee (2012)

I thought this film was quite well known, but it took some effort to see it.

Pi is the short name for an Indian boy who, on his search for God, joins several religions. He was raised a Hindu, found Christ and later Allah, much to the chagrin of his rationalistic father.

His father owns a zoo. Then he decides to sell his zoo and emigrate to Canada. The family sets sail on a ship that also transports some of the animals that are to be sold in the USA. After a shipwreck, Pi gets stuck on a lifeboat together with a tiger.

The “Life of Pi” is told by Pi to a writer. The film has wonderful imaginary, quirky humour and a surrealistic atmosphere. It reminds me a bit of “Big Fish“.

A very nice drama indeed.

Ocean’s Eleven – Steven Soderbergh (2001)

Only recently do I more often feel light light-footed Hollywood action films. There are some classics in the genre that I never saw and some of them are on Netflix, so I have added a few titles on my watch-list, such as the “Ocean”-films.

The first one is indeed amusing. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) hires 10 other men to elaborately rob three Las Vegas casinos. With a good script, descent humour, a nicely developing story and a whole pack of big-name-actors, Soderbergh takes his viewers to perhaps not a surprising finale, but he does manage to keep a ‘high level of entertainment’ and little surprises.

The film is much older than I thought. “Ocean’s Eleven” can be considered a heist classic. Not much action in this one by the way.

To The Wolves – Thomas Nöla (2007)

Old Europa Cafe proved to have more films of Nöla. Here we have a prequel to “The Doctor”.

This time no narrating Douglas P., but the film does have to DIJ songs.

The film is mostly about Bruno Helden, a philosophical man who meets The Doctor (because the latter pricks in his eye!). The Doctor was raised by wolves and blood thirst has stuck to him. The two set out to travel together in which way they meet strange people and strange situations.

Just as in “The Doctor” the film mostly revolves around interesting-sounding monologues and witty replies. The acting and camera work have improved somewhat since “The Doctor”, the staging and props are still… well, I suppose there was no big budget.

Just as with Nöla’s other film, it is amusing to see what ‘an underground film’ can be like, but do not expect a masterpiece.

Get your copy from Old Europa Café.

Redbad – Roel Reiné (2018)

There is not often a production this size in the Netherlands and this film is about the national ‘heathen hero, so it was hard to miss when the film came out. Still I had to wait before the DVD price dropped before I watched it.

Even though the 160 minute length, a lot of story is crammed into the first 15 minutes. In Frisia harvest has been bad for four years so the people demand human sacrifice to “Freyja”. Of course it is the girl that Redbad, the son of the king, is in love with, whom is chosen by lot. When she is to be burned, the Christian Franks raid Dorestad and in his effort to rescue his girl, Redbad causes his father to be killed.

Again lots have to be drawn and Redbad is found guilty by “Wodan” and is offered to the God of the sea. Instead of dying, he washes up on the shores of Denmark where he stays with a local tribe, marries and becomes a father.

When he hears that his own people have given in to the Franks and that his sister has an arranged marriage with the son of the Frankish king, Redbad decides to go back and help his people.

Then follows a adventure film with large fights between the freedom loving Frisians and the brutal Franks. Also Wilibrord and his young pupil Boniface are shown Christianizing.

The Frisians speak strangely contemporary Dutch. Of some actors you can even hear from what city they are. The two English missionaries speak Dutch too. The Franks and Danes speak English. A bit weird, but I can understand the director had to make choices.

The camera work looks good. The big fights look good too. The acting is not too bad, but mostly scenes that are supposed to be dramatic are not too strong, especially not when a dramatic interlude in a fighting scene is filmed.

It is a long wait until the scene which Redbad is most famous for. About to be baptized he asks if he will meet his ancestors in heaven and when the answer is ‘no’ he declines. Yet his Danish wife has been Christian (and fiercely fighting Christians too) for a long time. A bit of an odd variation to history too. Both the Christians and the heathens are shown to be brutal too.

The film is rather long but I did not really find it too long. Like I said, it looks quite well, but is certainly no big Hollywood production. Just a film to watch some time if you are curious about Dutch film making and (not too correct) history.

Code 8 – Jeff Chan (2019)

In a near retro-futuristic past people with ‘special powers’ were helpful in the economy. When machines were invented that could do the same, these people became less essential and eventually criminalised. A bit of a sad basis for a story in my opinion.

Of course we follow one of these people with power. Connor lives with his (also super powered) sick mother and they have a hard time raising enough money to get around.

Connor is picked up for a job which proves to be criminal and the prospect of making money that way makes him side with a criminal group.

The story has no surprises. There are a few alright findings in the film, but overall the film is perhaps not boring, but not very interesting either.

Spenser Confidential – Peter Berg (2020)

Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) has too much sense for morality, so he beats up his boss and is sent to prison for five years. As soon as he gets out, he bumps into another quest for which he has to go against the police force, his former colleagues.

“Spenser” is a standard but entertaining Hollywood action film with some humour woven in.

Keane – Lodge Kerrigan (2004)

This film is somewhat uncomfortable. William Keane’s seven year old daughter disappeared a few months ago and Keane has lost his mind. We very closely follow Keane who appears to be schizophrenic and developing paranoia.

He keeps coming back to the place where he last saw his daughter, talking to himself, trying to find out what happened. He also seems to be trying to relive moments spent with his daughter.

Keane is far from home. He rents a hotel room in the city where his daughter was possibly kidnapped. In that hotel he meets another seven year old girl.

Yes, ‘up close and personal’ that describes the film. It is not an easy watch. Not because it is very heavy or weird, but mostly because you feel sorry for the man. Quite a feat of actor Damian Lewis.

The Doctor – Thomas Nöla (2005)

I have been looking for this film for quite some time, but each time I had no luck. The film features Douglas P. which is how I heard about it. P. also features in the recently reviewed “Pearls Before Swine“, but there he has an actual part, in “The Doctor” his is the narrator.

Nöla wrote both the book and the film and only recently I noticed that a DVD can be ordered from Old Europa Cafe. This is fitting, since films that a recently saw (“Pearls”, “Lords Of Chaos“) and also this one of course have a connection with the music that I listen(ed) to, so getting it from a ‘scene label’ is appropriate.

“The Doctor” being a small production, could I even say ‘an underground film’?, will probably not make you expect a perfect and well-produced film.

In some ways it reminds of “Pearls Before Swine”. The acting is not too convincing, the protagonist is a narcissistic, brute, foul-mouthed, over-philosophical character that likes to hold lengthy monologues with difficult words and wild ideas.

The doctor from the title appears to be some sort of psychiatrist, but he is also his own patient. Haunted by a former patient of his, the doctor slides into a surrealistic world from which he tries to form ideas about the world outside and inside himself.

Just as with “Pearls” the film is not entirely amateurish. There are some alright scenes and some original ideas. Again it is a small production to watch some time just to see what it is exactly.