Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995, John Mc Tierman)
The third Die Hard, a thrill ride from start to finish, or nearly so: the ending is major let-down. It’s actually such an anti-climax that you wonder what they were thinking of. Did they completely run out of ideas? Well, maybe. The original, more intruiging ending was rejected by the studio because it presented John McClane as a man who could kill, not only to save lives, but also for the pleasure of taking revenge (apparently the ‚vengeance’ in the title was meant as a reference to Willis’ character, not to Jeremy Irons’ madman). Not even remotely believable, but good fun, with Willes and Samuel S. Jackson as a pair of ordinary supermen who almost destroy Manhatten in order to stop Irons from blowing it up!
Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring - 1960, Ingmar Bergman)
Watching Bergman’s movies is a phase in most moviegoers lives, so yes, I had my Bergman period as a student as well. Some of his movies - notably Wild Strawberries - are still among my favorites, but this one is a bit hard to stomach (and no, not just because of the unpleasant subject matter). It’s of course meticulously filmed, and the story material about the loss of faith, revenge, redemption, penance and innocence versus guilt is interesting, but Bergman’s theatrical approach (no doubt intentional), with an austere, stagey choreography prevented me from really getting into it.
L.A. Confidential (1997, Curtis Hanson) ½
I recently re-read the book, so also went back to the movie. Hanson and his screenwriters brought back the labyrinth of plotlines from Ellroy’s novel to more accessible levels, but the story about three mismatched detectives who are forced to co-operate while investigating a complex murder case, remains quite intricate. I watched it in the company of somebody who had not seen it before (and was also unfamiliar with the source novel) and she repeatedly complained that she didn’t understand what was going on. Anyway, it’s a movie that thrives on the interplay of a unusually good cast. Crowe, Pearce and even Spacey (an actor I usually do not like) are very good and some supporting actors (Cromwell, De Vito) are great as well. However I didn’t understand why everybody was so excited about Basinger. Not a masterpiece, a little overrated maybe, but still an enjoyable film.
Bad Boys (1995, Michael Bay)
A throwaway script (basically using elements from Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop) is used as a showcase for the comedic talents of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, who reportedly improvised large parts of their scenes and lines. Director Bay almost ruins the affair with neverending car chases and too many explosions, but Smith and Lawrence have a lot of chemistry as the unlikely pair of detectives, one (Smith) a bachelor and a Casanova, the other a family man. Loud, foul-mouthed, with none of the story elements making any sense (why keeping up this circus of the identity switch? Why not telling the key-witness who is who?), but nevertheless entertaining (if you can stand the noise). And if you don’t like those two boys, you can always watch the movie for Tea Leone, that one girl on two legs.
De Brief voor de Koning (The Letter for the King - 2008, Pieter Verhoeff)
An adventure movie, aimed at younger audiences, based on the book of the same name from 1962 by Tonke Dragt, in 2005 chosen by both critics and readers as the best Dutch youth novel of the past 50 years. Entire generations have lived with the hero, Tiuri son of Tiuri, a 16-year old boy - soon to be a knight - who is asked, by a dying knight, to deliver a letter to the king of a neighbouring country. It was a co-production with Germany and therefore boasting a fairly high budget. Not as good as the book, but elegantly filmed, on beautiful locations in Germany, Luxemburg and Holland, and well-acted. Surprisingly (for a Dutch movie) even the action scenes look good.
In Cold Blood (1967, Richard Brooks)
A fascinating adaptation of Truman Capote’s famous novel of the same name. Capote called his work the first faction novel. As a literary novel about a crime, it’s probably only second to Dostoïevski’s Crime & Punishment. Shot in black and white, and told in non-linear style, Brooks version is a perfect companion piece to the book. Both actors, Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, are perfectly cast as the couple of misfits who probably wouldn’t have committed the murders if they had been on their own, but became lethal when acting together. Sometimes a bit painful to watch, but worth the effort to endure the uncomfortable feelings it raises.