Not as good as the original Masterpiece, but still a decent watch. 5/10
Le Dernier Loup (Wolf Totem - 2015, Jean-Jacques Annaud) ***
Annaud already made a film about a bear cub, two young tigers and now he has made a movie about the wolves in Mongolia (and one young wolf in particular). The film was based on an autobiographical Chinese novel, set in 1969 Communist China. A young man is sent North, to teach the Mongolian tribes Chinese and good communist citizenship. He learns about their complex relationship with the local wolves and adopts a cub to learn more about those beautiful animals. Beautifully filmed, with some incredible images of the landscape and the people and animals inhabiting it, but the drama too often slips off into melodrama. Still worth a look
Alex Cross (2006, Rob Cohen) **
The third Alex Cross movie, Tyler Perry taking over the title role from Morgan Freeman. There’s a serial killer on the loose in Detroit and since there’s no Robocop around, Alex will have to do the job. Fast moving but rather uninvolving, with a final twist that is surprising, but seems to make little sense (Now that is a great idea: hiring a serial killer to stage your own death!)
Pocahontas (1995) ***½
I had always avoided it because it was supposed to be a naïve, politically correct, historically dubious pamphlet. It probably is, but compared to what we see and here today, both in cinema and in the press, it feels refreshingly spirited and sincere. It’s beautifully drawn, occasionally funny and above all it succeeds in presenting the Indian (sorry: Native-American) girl as a strong, independent character with a heart and a mind (of her own). True, the other characters are mere caricatures, but after all the film is named after the girl. There are too many songs, but Colors of the Winds remains a musical highlight.
Pay Back (1999, Brian Helgeland) ***
Violent, nasty neo noir with Mel Gibson as a criminal who is duped by his wife and best friend after a successful heist. After his recovery from a severe bullet wound (his wife shot him in the back!) he wants his money back. Biggest problem: his best friend has become a member of a powerful local crime ring. Shot in bleached colors, almost as if it’s a black & white movie with some scattered dots of muted reds or skin colors. The tone is downbeat, but there’s some (rather dysfunctional) tongue-in-cheek humor near the end. Nice cameos by Lucy Liu, Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn. Not a great movie, but somehow it managed to entertain me. Apparently I saw the studio version (the director’s cut is said to be a major improvement)
I was curious about the oscar winning performance of Ernest Borgnine. No let down, only a sudden ending of the movie that could have been diffetent.
- Kubrick: Eyes Wide Shut
- Kubrick: The Shining
- Becker:Touchez pas au grisbi
- Carné: Le jour se lève
- Renoir: La chienne
- Valetta: Meedio (tv-movie)
- Kasdan: Body Heat (Theater)
- Fellini: Casanova
- Szulkin: O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization
- Torun: Kedi (Doc)
Be sure to check his The War of the Worlds: The Next Century out as well, it’s excellent.
Last eleven days or so:
The Expendables 2 (West, 2012)
Mandy (Cosmatos, 2018)
Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, 2012)
Kotoko (Tsukamoto, 2011)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Amirpour, 2014)
The Girl With All the Gifts (McCarthy, 2016)
Troll Hunter (Øvredal, 2010)
Exists (Sánchez, 2014)
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Oliva, 2012)
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (Oliva, 2013)
The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955)
Shark Night (Ellis, 2011)
mother! (Aronofsky, 2017)
A Ghost Story (Lowery, 2017)
The Last Exorcism (Stamm, 2010)
Kill List (Wheatley, 2011)
Deadpool (Miller, 2016)
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Bayona, 2018)
Logan (Noir) (Mangold, 2017)
Hold the Dark (Saulnier, 2018)
Vamp (Wenk, 1986)
Your Name. (Shinkai, 2016)
The Garden of Words (Shinkai, 2013)
Interstellar (Nolan, 2014)
Source Code (Jones, 2011)
Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn, 2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2 (Gunn, 2017)
The Martian (Scott, 2015)
Ex Machina (Garland, 2015)
O-bi, O-ba was such a good film that I’m definitely interested to see more from director.
Sleeping With The Enemy (1991) - Director: Joseph Ruben - 2/10 - One of the worst psychological thrillers ever made, hands down. The script doesn’t make much sense and is filled with so many plot holes, it instantly gives you a headache and make your stomach churn. The characterization is absolutely dreadful and the entirety of the screenplay is so fraught with bromides, it all basically boils down to following the story from point A to point B and point C. The problem is that everything is either downright ludicrous or predictable insofar as you beg for the ending credits to roll. An atrocious piece of shit that is a real test of patience, the only reason why this turd’s got such a high rating is probably because Roberts gets to shake her ass on the screen or whatever. Avoid at all costs.
Wild at Heart (1990) - Director: David Lynch - 8/10 - I haven’t given this one a try before because I thought it wouldn’t be as surreal as other Lynch flicks. Fortunately, I was mistaken and this one is a new favorite of mine, a very classy venture with a classic Lynchian sense of humor. It is probably one of his most visual efforts, as it literally bathes its viewers with a warm, balmy palette on multiple occasions, really aesthetically pleasing.
The Keep (1983) - Director: Michael Mann - 8/10 - I love all of it now. It’s somewhat hard to explain why I love this movie so much. Just saying it is the best approximation of a dream experience isn’t going to cut it, so I guess I have to explain it in detail. Every once in a while, I dream about re-watching some of my favorite films, but the motion pictures I see in my dreams are contorted into something else altogether with the primary atmosphere preserved and multiplied by ten times in their emotional intensity. They are likewise a lot more awe-inspiring and intimidating, they’re pure sensory experiences so to speak. Either way, in my view, Mann’s The Keep is the best approximation of what a dream like that actually feels like. Therewith, it is one of the most stunning production designs ever conceived, the only word I can think of that accurately reflects its epic stature is ‘monolithic’: I don’t think there is anything quite like it elsewhere and the way Mann frames the supernatural drama at hand is simply awe-inspiring.
Despite its conspicuous faults, the film works incredibly well for me and Tangerine Dream’s score is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time, stunningly drony and sombre. Notwithstanding, some more melodic tracks like Sailing to Romania are also beyond description in how beautiful they still sound after all these years and firmly ground the work in more familiar territory, so it’s not all special effects and thunderous drones. I still cannot rate it higher because it’s disastrously patched together, no matter how you look at it, and the audio mix sounds fuckawful. Therefore, it doesn’t exactly work on a purely conventional level. I wish I had some dirt on Mann so that I could blackmail him and coerce him into releasing director’s cut. In the current day and age, there is hardly anything you couldn’t remedy with CGI in the restoration process (Lucas did a great job with his THX1138 for instance), all you need is a little bit of good will. Now give us that 3-hour cut.
Revenge (1990) - Director: Tony Scott - 4/10 - Yeah, it’s pretty botched and not that interesting. A very basic idea is stretched out to a 2-hour length which almost results in the entirety of the plot snapping. I guess you could say it allows the director to substantiate its main characters, but it never quite works because the core of the story isn’t sufficiently developed and the psychologism at hand is downright piss poor with little of depth or anything of importance happening. The characters just rove around and the whole drama constitutes, in essence, a bloated soap opera with a little bit of gore and extortionate violence thrown in there. The cinematography and the production design ain’t bad, but virtually everything about the structure is misplaced and the whole venture looks about as graceful as a wambling drunkard puking on the pavement.
A Simple Plan (1998) - Director: Sam Raimi - 7/10 - It shows that Raimi is perfectly capable of directing more modest ventures without resorting to more cartoonish devices and succeeding in constructing some compelling drama. Still, it’s not one of my favorites, as it is somewhat unpleasant and difficult to watch, however gripping the whole story is.
Crimson Tide (1995) - Director: Tony Scott - 7/10 - A very successful Hollywoodian actioner with a lot to offer in terms of thrills and such. There is a lot of chemistry between Hackman and Washington, all of it is paced really expediently and overall, it’s an engaging little blockbuster.
Past Midnight (1991) - Director: Jan Eliasberg - 3/10 - There is nothing worthwhile about this one. It’s a plain, formulaic soap drama with a little whodunit mystery thrown in there. The direction doesn’t exactly ameliorate things, quite on the contrary, it stultifies most of what could’ve constituted film’s merits and its attempts at conjuring up some sense of dread or suspense end up with a number of highly laughable scenes that effectively exert a detrimental impact on the tension of the motion picture which then irrevocably proceeds to sink into the mire of script-induced mediocrity.
The Odessa File (1974) - Director: Ronald Neame - 7/10 - It’s a tidy little conspiracy thriller which is apparently based on real events. Either way, the movie provides a sufficiently credible insight into the inner workings of secret societies and doesn’t devolve into a nonsensical clusterfuck so many of these flicks tend to degenerate into. It does have that air of old-fashioned filmmaking, but it doesn’t get in the way of telling a relatively interesting story. It didn’t exactly blow my socks off, but I had a good time with it.
Rush (1991) - Director: Lili Fini Zanuck - 8/10 - Despite the fact that the narration lacks some weight and the passage of time could have some more heft to it, the acting is simply superb and greatly underpins the general atmosphere.
Darkman (1990) - Director: Sam Raimi - 5/10 - Take the fucking elephant.
Bound (1996) - Director: The Wachowski Brothers - 5/10 - I guess it’s okay. I wouldn’t say it’s that great, it just feels too Hollywoodian and mainstream and edgy and whatever. I don’t know. I guess I would say that the Wachowskis’ direction just smacks of Hollywood meretriciousness and cheesiness and this is what is most apparent here with all swoosh-whoosh zoom-ins and outs, wham-bang close-ups and swish-whish slow-mo sequences. I get it that it’s not that much of a concrete critique, I know, but hey, it’s simply that it’s not a movie that’s up my alley.
Payback (1999) - Director: Brian Helgeland - 5/10 - After reading scherp’s short review, I decided to give this one a shot and well, I guess it’s okay. It technically is a neo-noir, but it is that in the sense that some of Guy Ritchie’s feature films are technically that which is not the kind of thing I’m looking for in neo-noirs. It likewise relies heavily on this specific kind of tongue-in-cheek humor which doesn’t necessarily get me all that excited and apart from that, the narration is slightly out-of-focus and feels somewhat loose as well as not that engaging. Quips and gags work pretty well despite the violence found herein, but it all only kinda-sorta work for me. I watched theatrical cut, perhaps director’s cut is somewhat superior.
The Crow (1994) - Director: Alex Proyas - 7/10 - A very entertaining and aesthetically distinctive motion picture with a shitload of visual splendor at its disposal. I really like the way the movie looks and feels. The Crow loses some of its charm towards the end, dedicating some of its running time to action scenes that sporadically lack some of that artistic gusto developed earlier, but overall it works incredibly well for a movie based on a comic book. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it’s just that some of these movies do not distinguish themselves with aesthetic independence of their own, excessively relying on elements established in its source material, not it’s fortunately not the case here.
Chronos (1985) - Director: Ron Fricke - 8/10
Upgrade (2018) - Director: Leigh Whannell - 8/10 - So, a new Sci-Fi that actually doesn’t suck and capably explores the ramifications of a link between AI and human consciousness? Count me in. Not only is the flick abreast of current topics, it also scrutinizes these intriguing questions with respect to human integration with AI technology in a highly proficient manner, successfully blending elements of action cinema with some down-to-earth, no-bullshit kind of narrative that pays considerate attention to both the scientific component of the story as well as exuberant, galvanizing action sequences in equal measure.
Bad Influence (1990) - Director: Curtis Hanson - 7/10 - A little bit of a hidden gem. It’s got all aesthetic trademarks of the genre which particularly manifests itself in the way the director tastefully frames all the decadence as well as glossy, modernist interior locations. I guess you could say the cinematography, the graceful production design as well as the irony are the factors that excite me the most and make me appreciate these films with regard to their aesthetic qualities. Therewith, the film packs a deadly dosage of sardonicism, both celebrating as well as deriding its genre conventions. That doesn’t mean the movie is intrinsically funny, although it proves darkly humorous on multiple occasions, toying with its protagonist basically at every turn. It’s too bad the flick runs out of steam towards the end and the denouement turns out a little underwhelming, but it’s still a fairly effective little neo-noir.
Baraka (1992) - Director: Ron Fricke - 7/10
The Boys from Brazil (1978) - Director: Franklin J. Schaffner - 3/10 - Jesus H. Christ, what the fuck is this thing supposed to be. The film has some of the most laughable overacting I’ve ever seen. Actor prance around, saying all kinds of moronic shit and doing the most over-the-top crap the screenwriter could possibly think of. If you make a conspiracy thriller, it’s difficult to endue your venture with believability. Suffice to say, the way of achieving credibility is not by throwing everything against the wall and hoping some of it stick, it’s the kind of genre that if you fuck up in one department, virtually everything else begins to crumble. In the case of The Boys from Brazil, everything is a bloody debacle: its direction pointlessly highlighting characters’ affectations to the point of preposterousness, its far-fetched story that could be recounted in a mere hour and a half, its overly dramatic, antiquated score and the overall campiness induced by the aforementioned factors. Overall, some of it is so fucking terrible it’s actually good, but it cannot be treated seriously by any stretch of the imagination.
Having yourself a bit of a nineties-a-thon there, fella!
Yes indeed. The antagonist husband couldn’t have telegraphed his villainous intent any more if he had “BAD GUY” tattooed across his head and spent the entire movie drop-kicking puppies into old ladies. It would have been far more intriguing (not to mention more realistic) if he’d been affable and even charming in every other aspect of his life. But he was like a Dress-Down-Friday version of Darth bloody Vader.
TBH, I’m not very keen on Julia Roberts. I mean, I’m sure she’s a perfectly decent actor, but the sort of projects she tends to go for are almost uniformly never the sort of movies I want to watch. The only Julia Roberts picture I have is George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002).
The plot machinations of A Simple Plan are handled with such efficiency it’s a pleasure to watch the accelerating downward spiral into torment and destruction. The troubled relationship between the two brothers is also teased out gradually and with surprising subtlety.
Since I am struck down with seasonal flu, I watched a bit more than usual, among other things
Appassionata, produced by Tonino Cervi. Better than I thought.
Downsizing with Matt Damon, worse than I thought.
Manchester by the Sea, produced also by Matt Damon (didn’t know that), not as sad as I expected.
Den of Thieves with Gerald Butler. Average but amazing firefight at the end.
Operation Finale with Ben Kingsley as Adolf Eichmann. Pretty solid companion to Fritz Bauer.
Commando with Schwarzenegger. So manly, my beard grew 2 inches while watching.
Life of Brian with the Monty Python Gang. You’re probably gonna crucify me (get it?) for saying this, but I think it didn’t age well and it bored me to bits.
Married to the Mob with Michelle Pfeiffer. Solid 80s comedy but nothing special.
Life Eternal, part 4 of the Brenner trilogy. Man this shit’s dark - again.
Kinda-sorta-kinda yeah. I guess I moved on from the 1980s to 1990s, finally.
Yeah, I couldn’t believe my own eyes (and my brain decyphering the movie for me) how bad that thing actually was. And this has got a 6.1 or something along those lines on IMDb. This is just insane. Practically everything about it is unequivocally shit, it’s truly painful to watch.
Neither am I. I think she’s a mediocre actress at best, she just looks good in front of camera and smiles every once in a while, but that’s about it.
Yeah, man, absolutely. It’s just sad to watch the plot unfold, it’s like looking at pure misery and misfortune. But it’s a very good movie
And of course it’s a morality play about deceipt and trust, in which the socially successful Hank loses everything, including his self-esteem, when he discovers his ‘low life’, loser brother Jacob was his moral superior.
It appears that for some reason we were all watching this movie last week. For me the reason was simple: it was on Belgian TV and the annoucement made me believe it was a solid thriller.
Well, it wasn’t.
Below (2002, David Twohy) ***
A mystery thriller set in wartime. A submarine saves three survivors from a life rack, one of them a woman. She discovers that the submarine is without its captain, who died under mysterious circumstances. People are hearing noises and seemingly supernatural events start taking place. Are the crew members suffering from oxygen deprivation (which may cause strong hallucinations), or has the captain come back to get even? Director Twohy (Pitch Black) creates some great claustrophobic atmosphere, but is denied by a needlessly convoluted script. The mystery of what happened to the captain gets a satisfactory explanation, but several other questions remain unanswered. Still worth a look.
Ice Age (2002) ***½
The beginning of one of the most successful animated franchises in recent history, a sort of animated version of John Ford’s Three Godfathers. The mammoth Manny and the sloth Sid rescue a human baby and decide to bring it back to his family. They’re joined by the sabre-toothed tiger Diego, who has other plans with the toddler. He prepares a trap for his traveling companions, but starts having second thoughts en route. The narrative defies any rudimentary sense of logic, but the characters work, in particular the peripheral character Scrat, the rat-like squirrel who’s obsessed with pursuing his acorn.
Next (2007, Lee Tamahory) **
An SF-action movie, (very) loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, The Golden Man. Dick’s story is about male mutants who have become dangerous to mankind. In this movie only one quality - the ability to look two minutes into the future - is respected, otherwise Nicolas Cage is a ‘normal’ person, not a ‘golden’ man (but note that he gets Jessica Biel). His clairvoyance has attracted the attention from a group of terrorists (who want to destroy Los Angeles) as well as an FBI agent (Julianne Moore) who thinks our gifted hero might prevent the assault. Fails to come up with a satisfying climax; instead it comes up with a plot twist that seems to deny the entire movie.
I Robot (2004, Alex Proyas) ***½
An SF-action movie inspired by Asimov, but not based on one particular novel or short story by the author. An existing script from the Nineties (apparently a detective story influenced by Agatha Christie) was seasoned with Asimov’s ideas - among them the famous Three Rules of Robotics. The film is set in a not so distant future, in which humans have become increasingly dependent on robots in daily life. While investigating the death of a researcher, a detective discovers that one robot (or maybe an entire generation of robots) is programmed to by-pass the Three Rules if necessary.
I Robot is no Blade Runner, but surprisingly this blockbuster movie is more successful in transmitting the spirit (and some ideas) of classic SF than some of the more ambitious, ‘more cerebral’ efforts in recent history. It loses focus near the end, when intelligent SF becomes hectic SFX, and the script becomes too didactic. It probably would have benefitted from another lead actor as well. Smith is not too bad, but he was given too many silly repartees to make his (rather dark) character look like the Will Smith we know from his other movies.
I wasn’t actually able to finish it, and I’m big Twohy fan. Almost George Miller kind of big.
I almost gave up halfway, but it got better in the second half
Miller’s Crossing (1990) Coen Bros
I literally endured this with all my strength. 2/5
Saw it in cinema, don’t remember it very well, but I think I liked the movie back then. I lost the Coens a bit out of sight in the course of the years. There were a few movies I liked, the True Grit remake, Fargo, The Big Lebowsky, but most other movies (as far as I have seen them) left me cold.