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Hulk – Ang Lee (2003)

So this was a Marvel film from before Marvel started to create a ‘Marvel comic universe’? Graphic novel to film, like other Marvel films, but with no references to other films then.

Bruce Banner’s father was a scientist who tried to genetically manipulate the human body so that it would restore itself after injury, like some animals grow back severed limbs. Since he was not allowed to experiment on humans, he tried his potion on himself. This he transferred to his son who accidentally ‘activated’ the manipulation. This caused him to turn big, green and incredibly strong when he gets angry. I guess you know the story.

We have a young Eric Bana, an also young Jennifer Connelly and actors such as Nick Nolte and Sam Elliot. The film is largely a drama, but in a few scenes there is action. There is -of course- a military interest in the experiment and Banner is unhappy with his ‘gift’.

Last Action Hero – John McTiernan (1993)

Even though 46 at the time, a young looking Schwarzenegger is the main character in a series of action movies. The teenager Danny is a huge fan and a magic ticket transports him into a movie in which Jack Slater is that main character.

I found this film because it supposedly combined comic book elements with film. There is -indeed- a cartoon cat in two scenes. For the rest the film is a bit of a screwball action film. The story is better than the film itself. Schwarzenegger is actually quite funny, but I am not too fond of kids in major parts.

McTiernan took the opportunity to experiment with filming going from 1950’ies black and white to hip action stunts. Also he opened a can of (then) famous actors towards the end.

Dahmer – Monster – Brennan & Murphy (series 2022)

The story of Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994) keeps fascinating ‘the entertainment business’. I know the story of Dahmer mostly because of the “Dahmer” album of the “murder metal” band Macabre from 2000. Most elements that Macabre sings about, can be found in the series. There are a few noticeable differences. I will quote Macabre here and there.

The series open with the “man [who] got away from Jeffrey’s apartment. The police came in and Jeff was busted”. Actually quite at the end of the story of Jeffrey Dahmer. Initially the series appear to present two story lines. One from the end working towards history and one from the beginning and on. This does not stay that way.

In the first episodes we mostly see Dahmer. A difference between the series and the Macabre album is that the latter does say that “Jeffrey used to play with road kill”, but according to the series, it was Dahmer’s father who taught him taxidermy, the only thing the boy showed any interest in. Also we witness the problems with Dahmer’s parents. His mother taking a plethora of pills, also while pregnant and his father leaving when Jeffrey was a young boy. His mother did not really take care of him, so Jeffrey went back under the care of his father. Always making trouble, his father sends Dahmer to the army, but he “drank too much alcohol, so he got dishonorable discharge”. The blood bank and chocolate factory that we hear about on the Macabre album are also shortly mentioned in the series.

Not staying out of trouble, Jeffrey is put under the care of his grandmother. By that time Dahmer had made his first victim, by accident. Dahmer started to find out that he was homosexual and when he picked up a hitch hiker he liked, he took him home. When the man “tried to leave, he had to die”.

Later on we find Dahmer going around the local gay scene, picking up gays he found beautiful. He soon started to drug and kill them on the first date. The drugging part was even known in the “bathhouse” scene where gays went to spend the night with their hookups and Dahmer was banned from the bathhouses. Then we get another story that differs between Macabre and the series. Dahmer takes a man to a hotel and when he wakes up in the morning, the man was dead. Dahmer uses a suitcase to get the body out of the hotel. In the Macabre version the taxi driver helped him to get the body in the suitcase.

There is also an episode about one of Dahmer’s victim. Quite a tragic story, as this was the first person Dahmer actually had the chance to build a normal relationship with. He did not even kill them on the first date. Yet, after a night spent together, when Tony wanted to go to work “he had to die”.

The series also put some stress on the father of Dahmer. He left his son when he was young and blamed himself for what Dahmer became. A brave man who kept believing his son could be helped. Also his second wife was a brave woman who stayed with Dahmer’s father even when -after Dahmer’s apprehension- she and the father were slandered in the media.

A big part of the series is about Glenda Cleveland who lived next door of the apartment where Dahmer lived and where he made most of his victims. She kept calling the police, but was always ignored. Cleveland was black and Dahmer’s victims usually had a double reason to be neglected: they were black and gay. Also the (in)famous situation in which a 14-year old victim was brought back to Dahmer who “turned the boy into bones” gets some attention.

And there we have the more social implications of the story. The subordination of minorities, racism and incompetence in the police organisation. It is amazing to see that Dahmer was trialed for harassing a minor, whose brother was later brought back to Dahmer’s apartment to be his 10+ victim. Or Dahmer fined for expose, while his apartment was full of body parts. One of the reasons he did not stop, was that it was so easy, he told the police.

The series also have a bit of an aftermath. “The media circus”, the trial in which Dahmer (in spite of his own request) did not get the death penalty, but 17 times life in prison, his father writing an unsuccessful book, Dahmer growing into a cult figure and -at last- him being bludgeoned to death in prison and one more court case about whether or not to destroy his brain.

So, a few angles on the Dahmer story in a watchable series. Several episodes have been directed by Jennifer Lynch by the way.

Iron Man – Jon Favreau (2008)

  • action

If I am not mistaken, this was the first Marvel film. Nothing of the big story/stories here. Just the story of weapons manufacturer and playboy Tony Stark who finds out that not just the ‘good guys’ have his weapons. He decides his company needs change.

Stark was abducted by terrorists. To escape, he builds an iron suit. Back home he decides to use that idea to make a more advanced version of that suit, which becomes his fighting and flying machine that makes him Iron Man.

Within his own company Stark turns out to have enemies as well, especially when he wants to steer his company into another direction. That adversary builds a similar suit to fight Stark.

“Iron Man” is a more typical action film than the other Marvel films that I saw so far. There is also more humor in it. It is amusing, but tells me little about the ‘Marvelverse’, safe -of course- the birth of Iron Man. But you have to start somewhere.

Trial By Fire – Edward Zwick (2018)

  • drama

Indeed, Laura Dern on the cover made me pick this film. Dern only enters the stage half way though.

Todd is a bad ass. Unemployed, often drunk, aggressive. When his trailer catches fire and his three daughters burn to death, everybody is convinced that Todd is to blame. Het gets the death penalty.

Many years Todd stays on death row. Quite accidentally he comes in contact with Elizabeth (Dern). First they correspond, then Elizabeth starts to visit Todd in jail and again later she starts to dig into Todd’s trial. All kind of inconsistenties surface. Even though Todd has appealed before, Elizabeth’s persistence leads to new (interpretation of) evidence making more and more people question the verdict, but in the mean time Todd gets the date.

Obviously, the film is to cast doubt to the death penalty. Todd’s case is an obvious one of a ‘usual suspect’. Sure, he was to blame for many things, but does that make him a murderer?

An alright drama.

Captain America: The First Avenger – Joe Johnston (2011)

  • action

Excuses if you do not like the Marvel films. I am getting into it a little. It is not like the films are superb, but I do enjoy the correlation between the films. I read somewhere that the present title makes the start of the Marvel universe. This cannot be entirely true though.

During WWII a scientist found a way to make a super soldier and he was his own first experiment. Hugo Weaving amusingly plays this bad guy called “Schmidt”. Early in the film he retracts the Tesseract (there it is again) in Norway.

A former helper of Schmidt (Erskine) goes over to the Americans and pulls off his trick again and so Captain America is born. Initially he is mostly the mascot of the American army, but he develops into the first super hero. Amusingly, along the way he gets that odd, round shield that he throws around all the time, but which comes back to his hand most of the time. The shield is made of “vibranian” which is so central to the “Black Panther” films. Anyway, we also meet familiar characters such as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Story and action wise, this Marvel is not the greatest. It sure does explain a few elements, but not everything. How did that Tesseract end up in Norway for example? Other internet sources advice to just start with the first Marvel film (“Iron Man” from 2008). I can imagine that some elements were simply added to the stories later and picked up in other films.

There appear to be over 45 Marvel films! I do plan to watch more, but I am not sure for how long. Until that time, excuses to Marvel haters.

Renfield – Chris McKay (2023)

Robert Montague Renfield is a “codependent”. He is dependent on noone less than Dracula. If you look well to the poster on the right, you may see that Dracula is played by Nicholas Cage. How much that man loves over-acting, so he was well-casted for his colourful part.

Dracula has made Renfield his “familiar” a long time ago. It is Renfields job to provide food, while Dracula hides in the shadows. Getting caught up in normal life, visiting self-help groups, Renfield grows away from Dracula and towards the hotheaded police woman Rebecca. Of course Dracula will not have that.

We have a few story lines. Rebecca tries to be a good cop, but is thwarted by her corrupt surroundings. Then we have the almighty crime family Lobo and of course the Renfield/Dracula situation.

In a bit of a screwball style, but with a lot of very bloody fighting scenes (the horror element of the story) we see how Renfield tries to get a normal life, while Dracula plans to wreak havoc on earth.

Nothing you should watch on the big screen. The film is just amusing enough to fill a ‘Netflix’ evening some time perhaps.

The Avengers – Joss Whedon (2012)

  • action

After “Black Widow” I decided to watch the first “Avengers” film for context. Here we have a story in which people try to gather “super heroes” from the Marvel franchise to form a super team. So here you get “Captain America” (is Captain America not the Black Widow’s father?), Tony Stark is I think “Iron Man”, Bruce Banner is “The Hulk” (who strangely sometimes has no control over his ‘hulkness’ and sometimes he does).

The club is gathered because “Loki” (from both Thor films) has plans with the “Tesseract”. “Thor” (both actors are the same as in the Thor films) comes down to try to save humanity and the Tesseract apppears to be an object of Odin.

In any case, there is a lot of fighting, fairly brutal action. An odd mix of mythology and science fiction, but I guess that is just the ‘Marvelverse’. Even more than in “Black Widows” there are references to other Marvel films.

Ratched – Murphy & Romansky (series 2020)

  • drama

Sarah Paulson (whom I mostly know for “American Horror Story“, just as Rian Murphy, one of the creators of the series) is Mildred Ratched (and she produced 11 of the 18 episodes). Ratched is based on the character with the same name from the film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”). Ratched is a manipulative woman who works herself into the staff of an exclusive early mental institution where Dr. Richard Hanover experiments with innovative techniques, mostly from Switzerland, with varying degrees of succes.

The series begin bloody with Edward Tolleson (Finn Wittrock who also plays in “American Horror Story”) killing several priests. The series do not become as bloody anymore after that. Tolleson is taken to the hospital of Hanover, initially for treatment, but also for investigation and -later on- to be prepared for death penalty as he becomes the focal point of a governor’s campaign. It is soon obvious that Tolleson is the reason that Ratched came to work at the facility.

Ratched tries to manipulate everybody around here to reach her objective which is initially unknown to the viewer. However meticulously planned, things do not go exactly as Ratched hoped. Especially with the arrival of Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon from “Sex and the City”), Ratched has to look deep into her inner and learn that there is more to life than a childhood’s promise.

The story nicely twists and turns, the series have some amusing characters such as Louise (Amanda Plummer from “Pulp Fiction”), Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis) whose character evolves wonderfully and Lenore Osgood (Sharon Stone). It goes from drama to thriller to ‘whodunnit’ with a bit of a horror element here and there.

Beau Is Afraid – Ari Aster (2023)

I did not like Aster’s “Midsommar” and (so) I never watched “Hereditary”. I heard “Beau Is Afraid” is something completely different. It sure is! “Beau Is Afraid” is weird. It is so weird that I wonder why it plays in cinemas. How many people can stand something as odd as this?

Joaqin Phoenix plays Beau, a man with massive anxiety disorders. There are monsters lurking under every rock. The viewer sees the world through Beau’s eyes. He lives in a rotten city where people stab each other, where monsters crawl out of cellars and in which everything that can possibly go wrong, goes horribly wrong. Even crossing the street for a bottle of water, is a massive challenge for Beau.

He was going to visit his mother remembering his father on the day that he died, but a drug infused mob trashed his appartement. On top of things, his mother dies in a very unfortunate accident. Beau is expected at the funeral, but he gets hit by a camper truck.
That is about the easy part of the film.

From his nursing address Beau wanders into a community living in the forest and performing plays which -incidentally- tell the story of Beau’s life. The film switches to surrealistic animation to make a circle back to the present where Beau finds himself in a situation which could never have occurred. Perhaps his life is not as miserable as he always thought? The shimmering optimism is soon gone when Beau arrives at his mother’s place.

“Beau Is Afraid” is mostly a very strange drama. The viewer goes from strange scenes with strange humour to completely different even stranger scenes and the story gets as blurry as Beau’s mind.

Indeed, not a film for people who want a clear cut horror film with scare moments. There is an incidental scene with some gore, but mostly the film is a peek into the mind of person who has lost his wits at birth.

Amusing, certainly. Not a brilliant film though, but I do not get to watch a film as odd as this one, so I have to give Aster some bonus points for that.