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Greenland
(2020)

Most likely not the disaster movie you were hoping for.
Just please give us a call if you find out anything when you get there. Like where we can go to be safe.

Nothing like a decent disaster movie every now and then. A film that can satisfy the disaster tourist in you. The number of such films that have already been made is countless. The causes of global destruction are varied. There were devastating earthquakes ("Earthquake" and only recently "San Andreas") that lifted up plateaus and ripped apart entire metropolises. Boats that sank because of a huge wave ("The Poseidon Adventure") or a stray lump of ice ("Titanic"). Erupting volcanoes ("Dante's Peak"), oncoming ice ages ("The Day after Tomorrow"), tsunamis ("Lo Imposible"), or (and more appropriately at the moment) a rapidly spreading, deadly virus ("Contagion"). The storyline of such disaster films is generally the same. In the first place, you already know what's going to happen and so you wait patiently for the catastrophic moment to kick in. Next, you're witnessing the effects of the announced disaster. And secretly you feel that blissful moment realizing you are only a silent witness and not physically present. And each time, it ends well for the protagonists (with some random victims though). They manage to escape death in a miraculous way. Such films usually end with apocalyptic images that show how devastating it all was.

In my opinion, "Greenland" fell outside the category of films that follow such a storyline. It rather fits in the list of films in which you can also find "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World". You are aware of what drama is going to take place. But it won't be really spectacular. The action-packed scenes in which fragments of the approaching comet hit Earth are rather scarce. A bit like in "Armageddon", where topics such as almost impossible human missions and self-sacrifice were more central than the disaster part itself. In the latter, the spatial trip with a space shuttle was pushed to the foreground. In "Greenland" it's the Garrity family's trip to a certain place where John (Gerard Buttler) and his family are safe from the imminent destruction of all living things on Earth. In short, the approaching disaster shifts to the background and drama takes over. Admittedly, in many ways.

As befits a clichéd disaster film, you first have the family aspect. Usually, it concerns a family with relational problems. This is also the case here in "Greenland". What John has actually done, isn't explicitly stated. But rest assured, the longer the arduous journey takes, the more the mistrustful spouses grow closer together. I think that's also a mandatory item that must be included in a disaster film. The film focuses more on the side effects of such a disaster that takes place all over the world. The hysteria and panic that arises. The looting and the massive exodus with the known monster traffic jams. The indignation felt by friends of John and Allison (Morena Baccarin), who attended a birthday party after John receives a personal message from the authorities to get himself and his family to safety in a secret place. One parent's plea to bring her child to safety had more of an impact on me than the rest of the movie.

The rest of the film shows the arduous journey to this secret place full of obstacles and adversity. Naturally, the son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) suffers from diabetes and the vital medication shouldn't be forgotten. And yes, you can expect problems related to that medication. In such a way that it'll get on your nerves. Reaching the military airport to claim their reserved seats on a transport aircraft is also not without a struggle. And at some point, it all gets a bit too much. Just when you think this family has dealt with enough setbacks, the following presents itself. And although the makers have tried to give this film an extremely realistic character, it also contains some unrealistic situations, such as the chaos at the airport. I fear that if we are confronted with such a situation, in reality, a multitude of citizens would be in front of the control barriers. And the way things get resolved during these tumultuous times also sometimes seems a bit unbelievable and too good to be true.

Maybe my expectations for this movie were a bit too high and it turned out to be a rather disappointing experience. They've made an emotional rollercoaster rather than a disaster film "Avant la lettre". But turn off your brain, and it'll be quite enjoyable. And although Gerard Butler is usually associated with mindless action films, he knows how to convince in this film. Just like he did in "The Vanishing". The very sympathetic family man who, thanks to heroism, manages to restore the broken trust. "Greenland" is certainly not a bad film, despite the shortage of action-packed and apocalyptic images. I found "2012" much worse, even though "Greenland" feels quite melodramatic at times. But this film isn't boring. Before you know it, the 2-hour movie is finished. Unfortunately, this disaster movie wasn't unpredictable compared to the oncoming comet.

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1BR
(2019)

This was definitely a creepy movie.
We're so glad to have you in the building.

It was two months. Two months that I didn't feel the urge to write down a nuanced and honest opinion about a movie I've seen. Maybe it was a lack of motivation because of the limited feedback on my previous writings. Maybe it was because of the enthusiasm with which I threw myself into a "Horror Challenge". A "Challenge" in which I finally watched 89 films in a period of about 7 weeks. And after these 7 weeks, I realized that I really enjoyed watching 50s and 60s horror. Coincidentally, the movie "1BR" passed during this event and there were words of praise for this horror. Enthusiastically I accepted the invitation from Alok Mishra (one of the producers) to send me a link to a screener. And of course, I'll be doing something in return by writing this review. So first of all, thank you Alok for forwarding the link.

Now some will claim that I'll write a positive review out of gratitude for having obtained a free link. Or because it's that time of the year where people ought to be mega-kind. However, nothing is less true. If "1BR" was a complete crap movie, I would describe it like that without any problem. Before Alok suffers from a panic attack, I will immediately reassure him. "1BR" is a decent film with a surprising twist. Despite the lack of too gory moments or demonic, paranormal revelations, it turned out to be a frightening film. One where you feel uncomfortable about the whole situation. However, I cannot tell much about the story itself. That would only spoil the fun. It's best that you watch this film without knowing anything, so it'll hit you without warning. What Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) doesn't realize when she moves into an apartment of "Asilo del Mar" is that her situation will look very different real quick. Sarah is a timid young adult who wants to start a new life in L.A. far from her family. She wants to make it as a fashion designer and is determined to leave her past far behind. A lopsided relationship with her father caused her to travel to the city of angels. Something that becomes clearer later in the film.

As a spectator, you don't need to wait really long before it starts to escalate. After 30 minutes, the mood changes from pleasant to downright unpleasant. There is no indication that Sarah walked into the lion's den. The other residents of the complex are helpful, hospitable, and over-friendly. To be honest, I thought that actually felt scary. I can't imagine such a community in our current narcissistic and self-centered world where everyone suffers from extreme navel-gazing. The atmosphere in this building is of a high "Melrose Place" level. There's even a central swimming pool, around which all residents can enjoy social gatherings and cozy barbecues. Those residents are introduced to you in slow motion at the start of the film and are a mixed bag of people. Including the retired actress Edie (Susan Davis) whose health is clearly deteriorating. The helpful, attractive neighbor Brian (Giles Matthey) for whom Sarah immediately has an attraction. And even the landlord Jerry (Taylor Nichols) does his utmost best to make Sarah feel at home in her new home.

There are only a few disturbing factors, according to Sarah. First of all, the creepy Lester (Clayton Hoff). A resident who keeps an eye on her like a one-eyed pirate. Then there are the disturbing noises at night. She was told this is due to poorly maintained pipelines. And then the main fact that no pets are actually allowed in this building, which means that Sarah is forced to keep her cat Giles carefully hidden. Something that does not go unnoticed and is the beginning of a kind of psychological terror. The unknown actress Nicole Brydon Bloom delivers an excellent acting performance and is the most defining person in this film. She shows a range of emotions throughout the whole film. First enthusiasm. Then bewilderment. And after that, desperation and resignation. And in the end, the bold survival instinct emerges suddenly. Not only Bloom's acting is sublime at times. Also, the way the side characters play their split personality is simply magnificent.

Once again, the fact a screener was sent to me, isn't the reason for my positive comments. Believe me, This movie managed to surprise me. It looks slick. And to be honest, I didn't know which way it would go until the last minute. The uncomfortable feeling I had is partly due to the realistic image that is being created. The feeling you have when you end up in a situation and you don't know how to rescue yourself from that terrible predicament. The only (minuscule) minus I could cite is that the denouement immediately reminded me of "The Invitation". But that's such a negligible element that I can only say you should definitely check out this intriguing movie.

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On the Rocks
(2020)

I'm hoping for another cooperation between Coppola and Murray
You know what's great about her? She doesn't talk. She just listens. That sounds perfect for you.

Life is full of unexpected turns. As an 18-year-old, I rented the adult cartoon "Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle" just for fun. Probably because of the titillating vamp on the cover, lying naked on a huge platter and carried by figures that looked like penises. No one could suspect that a voice actor in this cartoon would become one of my most popular actors. If there's one comedian who manages to make me chuckle without any problem, it's Bill Murray. Like in "Stripes" and "Ghostbusters". Or the incomparable film "Groundhog Day". However small his role may be in a feature film, he always manages to create an unforgettable scene, such as in "Zombieland" for example. Put Murray in a horror, and his typical way of acting makes it a completely different experience. Just watch "The dead don't die" and you'll know what I mean. In short, a versatile actor who takes a film to a higher level with his contribution.

This year I came to the conclusion that I had never seen the movie "Lost in translation". A film directed by Sofia Coppola (daughter of) with Bill Murray and the very young Scarlett Johansson in the leading roles. Even though there was something slightly comical lurking beneath the surface of this film, the subject matter was far from comical. A film about two individuals who are right in the middle of an identity crisis. A film about love and loneliness. Loneliness not only because of the life situation they both find themselves in, but also because of the fact that they are in a country where they don't understand the language, culture, and general way of life. Two lost souls who discover, sense, and encourage each other. I admit, I was moved after seeing this masterful film. Finally, after a long time a film that rocked my socks off. A thought-provoking film that'll resonate for a pretty long time. Yes, some movies do that to me.

And then 17 years after the release of this magisterial film, we get a renewed collaboration between Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray. "On the Rocks" is not as magical as "Lost in Translation". But somewhere deeply hidden it does have points of contact with the latter. Here, too, Laura (Rashida Jones) is in the middle of a crisis. Both in terms of her marriage and her writing career. The suspicion that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) just pretends to have lots of work since starting his own company, just to cover up an affair, grows stronger. And writing a new book isn't easy either. The day she tells her father Felix (Bill Murray), a charismatic wealthy art dealer with an untameable flirtation habit, about her suspicions, he throws himself wholeheartedly into the case with full dedication. Before Laura realizes it, she is embroiled in a wild search for the truth.

"On the rocks" isn't such a depressing and melancholic story as "Lost in translation". There's more humor in it. How another mother at school tells Laura every morning about her love life. The interesting facts about human behavior and the evolution of relationships between men and women Felix tells about every time unexpectedly. The wild chase in a "not so suspicious-looking" red, noisy convertible through the streets of New York. Perhaps it's rather light, uncomplicated humor. Still, it's subtle at the same time. The chemistry between Laura and her father feels unforced and authentic. And this won't come as a surprise: Bill Murray nailed it once more. He demands full attention every time he comes into the picture. His characteristic acting and the way in which he can charm random people with his smooth talk is simply superb. And it's not just the female population that falls for his smooth-talking. The way he manages to turn a police officer's mood from being reprimanding to being helpful is just sublime.

"On the rocks" is about marital troubles, a complicated father-daughter relationship, and also about how people get lost in the turbulent and chaotic society in which they live. It's not another masterpiece of Coppola, but surely it's another successful cooperation between Coppola and Murray. I quietly hope that they will work together again in the future.

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The War with Grandpa
(2020)

Please, Robert. Stay away from comedies.
Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in a family.

What a top actor, Robert De Niro. Most of the films in which he played the lead, became film classics. Memorable roles that will still impress in decades to come. From "Taxi Driver" to "Goodfellas". From "The Deer Hunter" to "Casino". Unforgettable masterpieces. The only thing De Niro should have avoided in all these years is comedies. Besides "Last Vegas" there isn't a single comedy (at least of those I've seen) with De Niro that I thought was worth watching. Lame humor and an irritating storyline are usually the biggest annoyances about such films. "Meet the Fockers", "Analyze That", "The Big Wedding", "The Family" and "The Intern", just to name a few. Every time I felt vicariously ashamed. This is also the case with "The war with GrandPa".

Let's introduce grandfather Ed (Robert De Niro), who's hopelessly left behind after the death of his beloved wife. Next, there's the concerned daughter Sally (Uma Thurman) who wants her father to move in with her family, regardless of what the family members have to say about that. Husband Arthur (Rob Riggle) is again such a good-natured guy (and obviously Ed has nothing good to say about him) who looks at the whole thing with resignation and grudgingly agrees with the whole situation. Then there's son Peter (Oakes Fegley) who's screwed and reluctantly has to give up his beloved room. And this because grandfather's legs refuse to work properly and so grandpa takes up residence there. Peter has to move to the dusty attic with a roof that's not watertight and where unwanted pets run across the wooden truss. The eldest daughter Mia (Laura Marano) has the least problems since she's living in her own teenage world. And finally, there's the adorable daughter Jennifer (Poppy Gagnon). The only one who's extremely enthusiastic about the new housemate.

You can already guess what's going to happen after reading the title of the film. Yes, grandson Peter declares war on Grandpa Ed. The stake is the bedroom he had to hand over. At first, Ed finds it all highly amusing. The written declaration of war slipped under his door is treated with derision. And Grandpa Ed is willfully playing the game. It seems so innocent to him. I don't think it's going to be a surprise when it turns out that things start to get out of hand.

I thought it was quite astonishing that famous actors cooperated in this average family film. Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, Christopher Walken, and Jane Seymour. Admit it, they are not the least. I suppose these actors would also like to experience a pleasant film set with a less demanding, relaxing role instead of a physically hard, intense one. Just like me wanting to have a peaceful moment in the midst of all the horror violence stuff I watch most of the time. The main subject being the clash between youth and the elderly in this movie seemed rather obvious. Unfortunately, there are other storylines that were added and not further explored. Like the love-hate relationship between the mother and her future son-in-law. Or the work situation of father Arthur. The only sidetrack that is gratefully used is the bullying of Peter at school. That was rather funny.

The rest of the film is a series of silly jokes those two arch-rivals are playing on each other. The pace at which these pranks follow each other is blisteringly fast. And they are of the level as the April Fools' Day jokes. Replacing shaving cream with quick-drying foam or replacing cookie filling with toothpaste. Well, the movie has its charms. It's a slightly corny comedy. A kind of mixture of "Home Alone" and "Dennis the Menace". Obviously the film aims at a younger audience because my 8-year-old son next to me laughed a lot while watching. I'm afraid I'm not part of the target audience. I guess I belong to De Niro's age-group. But nobody will ever ask me to play such a part.

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#Saraitda
(2020)

A South Korean version of "La Nuit a dévoré le monde". Try it!
"I must survive."

I had nothing but words of praise for the movie "The night eats the World" or "La Nuit a dévoré le monde". A quirky film about a Parisian who suddenly wakes up in a Paris occupied by zombies. "#Alive" (original title "#Saraitda") is the South Korean version. The only difference is that the zombies are portrayed more explicitly here. About the French version, I said that non-zombie movie aficionados could watch it without worrying about leaving skid marks in their underwear every time such a hollow-eyed creature appears around the corner. This rule does not apply to "#Alive".

When Oh Joon-woo (Ah-In Yoo) wakes up early in the morning and crawls behind his PC to continue gaming, he doesn't realize that the day will turn out very differently than usual. Soon, alarming news reports are broadcasted about a strange disease that is spreading rapidly, causing people to become enraged and attacking fellow citizens with bloodshot eyes. When Joon-woo looks out the window of the apartment, he witnesses this bizarre phenomenon. The young gamer is smart enough not to rush out of the apartment in a panic. Instead, he barricades the front door, makes an inventory of what's left to eat, and tries to make contact with the outside world. It's not really a surprise that this isn't so easy to do.

The largest part of the film takes place in the apartment, just like in "La Nuit a dévoré le monde". You witness how someone has to deal with a life-threatening situation and how they desperately look for a way to escape this situation. Of course, he's faced with the inevitable. After a while, he is confronted with a lack of food and liquor. The fact that there's a fully loaded drinks cabinet with liters of spirits can provide short entertainment. But really quenching thirst with it isn't really recommended. Missing his family and the corresponding loneliness are also starting to weigh heavily. Contact with the outside world is not possible. And keeping a video diary only helps partially.

Time to introduce the next protagonist. Namely the young girl Kim Yoo-bin (Shin-Hye Park) who lives in an apartment right across that from Oh Joon-woo. What follows is a primitive interaction between the two individuals using technical aids such as tablets and a drone. Both have the same goal in mind and that's surviving. Not that people who have a similar situation in other zombie films don't have this goal. But instead of going out and trying to find their way through a zombie-plagued society, the two sit quietly in their hideaway and wait for the right time.

"#Alive" is not very original and basically shows nothing new. The zombies themselves do look extremely creepy. There are times when things are getting tense. There are also some funny situations to be seen. Towards the end, they added a separate storyline. Some will find this disruptive. On the other hand, I thought it was a successful addition. It brought a bit of variation to the overall story. Maybe the denouement was a bit over-the-top. But overall I could agree with the general tone of this movie. Ultimately, we are now in a similar situation with the COVID pandemic. Of course, there aren't any zombies. But many people haven't left their homes for quite some time in the last six months to prevent worse. So, "#Alive" is more than a regular zombie movie if you look at it that way. Are you a fan of zombie flicks such as "La Nuit a dévoré le Monde"? Or to a greater extent also "Zoo"? Well, you should give this South Korean variant a try on Netflix. It's well worth it.

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The Boat
(2018)

I don't want to rock the boat, but this was boring.
Abandoned Adrift Not Alone

Obviously, there are more movies about machines suddenly having a will of their own and starting to make life miserable for their fellow humans. For example, in days long gone, there was Herbie, the love bug, who regularly took over the steering wheel without asking. Admittedly, this movie won't scare you since it was a hilarious family movie. Of a different caliber is the movie "The Car" with a demonic, black Lincoln Continental Mark III car that repeatedly left a rubber trail on the face of an innocent passer-by. Even better and more famous, the glitzy Plymouth Fury '58 in "Christine". A car that could restore its wrinkled bodywork to its original condition without hesitating. And it killed those who bothered its owner. You could say that the "Titanic" made quite a few victims as well. But that wasn't because this mastodon of a boat suddenly started sailing its own course, but rather because an iceberg popped up suddenly. The boat in this movie, on the other hand, is a different story. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

It does sound exciting. The film itself wasn't. But admit. How exciting can a movie be in which a boat sails its own course? And what if there's a passenger on board who accidentally ended up there? The only thing such a wayward boat can do is try to get that guy off the boat by swinging certain parts in his direction. You can also lock him up in a small room so that he can't move. But these are eventually all the available possibilities that can be used. Unfortunately, you still have to fill up the rest of the film.

And that's what you get the rest of the movie. Uninteresting filler footage. You see how a young fisherman (Joe Azzopardi) leaves his house in the morning and sails his boat across the Maltese azure blue ocean. I suppose to go fishing. I immediately wondered why he had to go so far at sea for this. That aside, because I'm actually a complete layman when it comes to fishing at sea. In any case, he ends up in a fog bank and (literally) bumps into the abandoned sailboat. When he climbs on board to see if anyone is present, he suddenly finds out that his own boat has disappeared. And so he finds himself in a hopeless situation. Completely alone. Without water, without food, and non-working communication tools.

Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. I had a similar feeling about "All is lost". There's nothing wrong with the used images. The endless ocean and dark cloud formations are rewarding objects for making timeless images. Even the footage inside the cursed ship (with its limited surface area) looks professional. But a single man on a boat bobbing around, cannot provide lengthy, entertaining conversations. Apart from a bit of grumbling, swearing, and murmuring, there is nothing to be heard in that area here. And at one point it seemed as if the film was repeating itself. The only highlights you could mention are the toilet scene and the storm suddenly coming up. And of course, the acting of the sole protagonist wasn't bad at all (even if it was limited to staring desperately). But otherwise, in my personal opinion, I thought it was pretty boring. Even the denouement was pretty dull. As if they were also a bit on a wrong track in terms of creativity. That last image of the floating boating on the horizon had the wrong effect on me. It just made me chuckle quietly.

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Allagash
(2020)

Old fellow against dumb gangsters in a beautiful snowy landscape.
I just want to get out there and bag my buck.

If you start watching this movie without any prior knowledge, you'd swear it was a flick from the 80s. A film period in which Tom Berenger also played in old-fashioned crime pictures such as "Someone to watch over me" or "Shoot to kill". I'll always remember this actor as Sergeant Barnes (the ruthless soldier with a hideous scar who wanted to kill all Vietnamese, no matter what age) from the legendary Vietnam film "Platoon". It's true that this all-rounder was a lot younger in this war movie. Tom Berenger has reached the blessed age of 71 this year. But that didn't stop him from stumbling through the icy landscape of Allagash (a town in the North Maine Woods region) in search of game.

And you can take that stumbling literally. Not only is he an elderly man. Apparently he also suffers from a disease that causes him to cough up blood from time to time. So for Jim Reed (Tom Berenger), it's a tough job to move through the thick snowpack. In addition, Jim also carries a very heavy mental burden. As the film progresses, this dark secret is revealed little by little. The fact that you see him attend an AA meeting gives you an idea of what's the source of all his woes. An event that caused this ex-Marine to lose a beloved family member and the rest of his family refusing any contact with him. Actually it's something similar that Rayborn is going through in "The Silencing". Coincidentally a movie I've seen only recently.

"Blood and money" is a terribly slow film. In the first part, we get to know Jim who's hunting for deer in the vast nature reserve. You witness the solitary life he leads in his converted camper. And the friendly relationship he has with the not so unattractive waitress Debbie (Kristen Hager) in a diner. A desperate woman who would like to leave that godforsaken place and who also has her domestic problems. And then there are the occasional talks with a kind of forest rangers who register those who enter or leave the nature reserve. In short, little to get excited about. Until Jim spots the deer he's so desperately looking for. He aims and fires a fatal shot. Unfortunately, there won't be a juicy piece of deer meat on the table during the Christmas season. Because he accidentally shot and fatally injured a woman. And when turns out she's a member of a gang who just robbed a casino and Jim finds a gym bag full of dollar bills next to her body, you expect the movie to get more action-packed and exciting.

Well, that's what you expected. Right? Forget it. That's only partly true. It won't become an impressive or spectacular movie after all. In the first place, you can't expect a retired hunter with walking difficulties to behave like a crafty, in-shape kind of Rambo. I also had the impression that he always traveled the same route on a limited square kilometer. The advantage is that you can enjoy the idyllic snow landscape immensely. But I'm sure most viewers expected a different kind of entertainment than beautiful "National Geographic" footage. And secondly, you can expect really idiotic bad guys who, provided they had a certain amount of intellect, could have easily overpowered this old guy. The way they were tricked by him sometimes, was downright laughable. Besides finding the bag of dollar bills, Jim isn't exactly born for luck either. You'll figure that out every time he manages to capture a weapon.

"Blood and Money" won't leave an everlasting impression. The story itself is nothing new. Only Tom Berrenger makes an impression, given his age. A character role pur sang. Unfortunately, they were unable to go into his personality deep enough. What happened to him in the past remained rather vague. Furthermore, the action part seemed rather amateurish. So it felt like a mediocre film. If you admire Tom Berrenger, you should of course watch this one. However, there are better thrillers that also take place in a snowy landscape.

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Dark Encounter
(2019)

What a superb SF. Or isn't it a SF?
It's incredibly hard to imagine that four adults ... ... and a dog! ... four adults and a dog simply vanished in the course of an hour.

I saw "G-Loc" a while ago. And my first thought now was: "Why not try another SF?". Not only because it's one of my favorite genres. But because "G-Loc" was horrible and a disappointment in every way. And I wanted to forget this ordeal as soon as possible by watching an SF of better quality. And luckily "Dark Encounter" was of a completely different quality than the latter. Even though that wasn't really difficult to achieve. But in retrospect, I did wonder whether it was indeed an SF in the strict sense of the word.

The opening scene shows mother and father Anderson coming home from a night out after which they discover that their daughter Maisie has mysteriously disappeared. However, there's no trace or indication of a violent kidnapping. She simply vanished into thin air. In the next scene, we witness a family gathering. A family dinner where it's abundantly clear that the pain of losing their child is still there, resulting in snappy conversations in a tense atmosphere. Until suddenly strange light phenomena are seen by Ray (Mel Raido) and he and the other present men suggest investigating the seeings. When they arrive in the forest and witness more spheres flying around and one of them disappears without a trace, they realize there's more to it than some inexplicable weather phenomenon or local rascals playing with fireworks.

I have to admit that Carl Strathie knows how to mix different genres in an ingenious way. In general, you think that for the umpteenth time, alien green creatures are randomly abducting people to use them as guinea pigs for their experiments. Or maybe Martians who just dropped by to get acquainted. However, don't expect impressive images of colossal intergalactic spacecraft. It's limited to bright shining lights during a foggy night. Even though there are similarities with for example "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", you won't be awed by an immense spaceship with lighting like the dance floor in "Saturday Night Fever". Next, you get the feeling that you are watching a scary horror where household objects defy the laws of gravity and where lights start to flicker. And as a basis, you have a family drama about missing a loved one and the accompanying grieving process.

And if these aren't enough film genres, there's the very surprising denouement, after which the whole is suddenly approached from a completely different perspective. The sci-fi aspect fades into the background and a crime mystery demands attention. The denouement is overwhelming and most will react in a similar way as I did. "Ah, that's what's going on" as I thought at that moment. All I wondered is the origin of the entities that provide the clarification. Aliens? Or spiritual manifestations? Not that this matters. The end result is what counts. And thanks to this highly original twist, this film effortlessly rises above average.

"Dark Encounter" is a low-budget film with an original approach. Despite the fact they diligently borrowed from other well-known films, "Dark Encounter" pleasantly surprised me. And not just because of the originality of the story. But also because of the acting by the almost unknown cast (especially Laura Fraser). Plus the excellent soundtrack and sound effects. And the nostalgic feeling it gave me. It reminded me several times of similar films from the 80s. And the overall mood they managed to create. There's something else that surprised me after reading about it. It seems as if it all takes place in the U.S. during that period. And yet this movie was entirely filmed in the UK with English actors. Amazing. In short, this SF is highly recommended.

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The Silencing
(2020)

Can't say it's bad. It's just mediocre.
I need to see that girl. She could be my daughter.

It's always nice to see how actors from a successful television series cope in a feature film. And especially if the genre is quite different from what they played in that series. Here Nikolaj Coster-Waldau makes a decent attempt to show that he has more to offer than playing a king's son who prefers to perform gymnastic exercises with his sister between the sheets. His performance here is on a similar level to that of Jaime Lannister in "Game of Thrones". Convincing enough, but not exactly of exceptional quality. A role that doesn't annoy you. But every time you see his face somewhere, you have to think for a moment where you know that face from. This is also the case here in "The Silencing". I was like, "Damn, where do I know this guy from?". Only after fifteen minutes or so, I could figure it out.

"The Silencing" itself is of the same level. Certainly not a bad movie. But also not a movie that'll blow you away. The story felt a bit incomplete to me. There were some improbabilities (not to say completely nonsensical decisions). And the denouement with the disclosure of the perpetrator and his motivation, I personally found a bit far-fetched. The film had something "Silence of the Lambs"-ish but then set in an extensive, forest-like nature reserve. An area managed by Rayborn Swanson (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that has been given the name "Gwen Swanson sanctuary". A reference to his daughter who has been missing for 5 years. It's a place where animals can live undisturbed and protected, far from hunters and poachers. Rayborn lives an isolated life far from the civilized world. A way to silently grief about the loss of his daughter. Usually by consuming liters of alcohol. A bit strange because that's exactly what caused that disappearance.

The story gets a little bit more exciting the moment a serial killer comes into the picture. Someone who probably watched "The Hunt" too much. What follows, is a cat-and-mouse game with the participation of the local female sheriff Alice Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis, series-loving fans will recognize her from "Peaky Blinders") who herself has her hands full with the stupidities her little brother Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a drug addict with a traumatic past.

Without a doubt, this could have been a much better, coherent movie, provided the script was changed a bit. It's linked together with hooks and eyes. Full of coincidences and ridiculous twists. Decisions are made that are too ridiculous for words. Alice's surprising action at one point is understandable on the one hand. But on the other hand completely unreal. And the indifference that those involved show afterward as if nothing had ever happened, made me frown for a moment. Rayborn's paint pot trick seemed so absurd and stupid that I spontaneously burst out laughing. Not exactly applicable to a serious thriller about a serial killer.

"The Silencing" isn't so great. A mediocre piece of movie. Actually, you could say that you've seen it all before in other movies. And much better movies too. Cinematographically it looks professional (despite the low budget) and the general mood is also good. But, when you love watching exciting flicks with nerve-racking suspense, you'll be disappointed. The only thing I can't say anything wrong about is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's acting. Solid and constant. Just like in "Game of Thrones". Again a pitiful persona. But I'm sure I won't recognize him in his next feature. Once again.

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The Great Silence
(2020)

A film that fits the current world situation.
The virus has not spread there yet. We'll go there. We'll wait it out. And then as soon as it's over we will come right back home.

There's one admirable fact when it comes to the movie "Before the fire" and that's the prophetic nature of this movie. When the film was released in the UK and US, we were only at the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic as we know it today. Nobody thought that things would go so fast with only about a hundred infections in these countries at that time. Now 6 months later, we have millions of infections, and these countries are at the forefront when talking about the number of cases. Actually, this was the most terrifying part of the movie. The uncanny realism and the similarities with the current world we live in. The beginning of the film shows how panic slowly takes over a country. News reports that are gradually sounding more threatening. Supplies and resources are slowly depleted. Closed or jam-packed motorways. Airports where scheduled flights are canceled. And a lot of people who leave their possessions behind because they reside in a part of the country where a virus outbreak causes victims. To a greater extent, it's comparable to the situation at the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

Like everyone else, Ava Boone (Jenna Lyng Adams), a well-known TV actress, and her boyfriend Kelly Rhodes (Jackson Davis) are trying to get out of Los Angeles. Kelly manages to get a flight through an acquaintance who owed him. Only he manages cunningly to make sure that only Ava is on the plane so that she can sit out the epidemic in a safer place while he, as a journalist, handles an assignment to make a documentary about the pandemic. Ava's problem, however, is that she's returning to her hometown, which she left with Kelly for a variety of reasons years ago, and is forced to move in with the Rhodes family. Something she doesn't feel like doing because according to her the Rhodes family hates her. All in all, turns out it isn't so bad there. The relationship with her relatives, on the other hand, is a whole other thing. Needless to say, her relatives are the ones causing massive problems.

So "Before the Fire" isn't an apocalyptic film that focuses on the outbreak of a pandemic. Once Ava has settled with the Rhodes family and, to pass the time, lends them a helping hand at the farm, the film transforms from an SF/thriller to run-of-the-mill family drama. I believe that the label "Fiction" is outdated due to the current world situation. And you can't call it thrilling or exciting either. Even the amount of action is fairly limited. "Before the Fire" is more about opening old wounds from the past in a country where lawlessness reigns thanks to a chaotic health situation. The fear of coming into contact with infected people who ignore the quarantine measures is the only evidence that there's still global contamination happening. The fact that civilians are suddenly forming militias and taking justice into their own hands is a more dangerous situation for Ava. Why she had problems in the past with the Rhodes family and especially with her father, is nowhere explained. That's regrettable because that would make it all a bit more understandable.

Even though "Before the Fire" is a slow-burner and a not so very innovative film in terms of a storyline, it still managed to fascinate me in a certain way. Mainly because of the acting of Jenna Lyng Adams (who also wrote the script) and Charles Hubbell. Two extremely emotional roles. Especially the interaction between Ava and Max (Ryan Vigilant) is convincing and brings out the positivity in a life-threatening situation. Ava's father, on the other hand, is the personification of how such situations can bring out the bad in a person (or justify it). No, you can't call this film bad. Only the movie poster could put you on the wrong track. Many will be disappointed because their expectations are not being fulfilled. Don't expect a "Contagion" kind of movie. No way. In "Before the Fire" the epidemiological aspect shifts to the background and makes way for a family survival drama. Slanderers might even say that the part about a virus outbreak was added afterward to give it a more contemporary and current feeling. I wouldn't dare to say that though.

Artemis Fowl
(2020)

The making of "Artemis Fowl" on its own deserves a motion picture.
Who do you think you are? I'm the next criminal mastermind.

I'm afraid you need to be as intelligent as "Artemis Fowl" to understand and keep up with this movie. What a confusing chaos this was. I get it that they are looking for a sort of Harry Potter successor and already started drooling while thinking of the box-office with every new sequel. But they should have spread this single movie over a number of sequels because now you cannot make heads or tails of it. Let me remind you that I don't know the book series written by Eoin Colfer, on which this film is based. Let alone read one of them. A kind of introduction of the characters would have been helpful for the uninitiated viewers. And that's a big difference when you compare (and there will be a lot of comparisons) this Disney film with the Harry Potter films. Even if you hadn't read one of the Harry Potter books, you were sucked into the wonderful story about this mini wizard from the start. All the leading protagonists were carefully introduced and gradually you got to know them, appreciate them, and quickly one of the leading characters became your favorite. With "Artemis Fowl" you better keep focused because before you know it you have missed a whole storyline and a number of important characters. The amount of facts and things of importance is so immense that it'll make you dizzy.

It also took an awful lot of effort before the film could be released. The film rights were bought in 2001 by Miramax Films (in the middle of the fantasy film period when Potter and Frodo ruled). Next Disney announced in 2013 that they were going to make the film in partnership with The Weinstein Company. The creation of this feature film was very different from what had been expected. First of all, you had the disappearing trick of some directors. Then there was the Weinstein affair with Harvey waving his wand too much apparently. Next came the disgruntled fans and last but not least the Coronavirus. In the end, it was decided to stream the film on the Disney + platform instead of screening in the cinema. For sure this was the best decision they could have ever made. No one would be inclined to watch it in the cinema after reading a few reviews. Unfortunately, the revenue from Disney + platform subscriptions is not enough to bear the price tag of a sloppy $ 125 million.

What else went wrong besides the fact it's a very confusing story? Well, to be honest, I wasn't really charmed by the characters themselves. Artemis Fowl Jr. (Ferdia Shaw) is an annoying kid without any charisma and totally insensitive (A kind of MIB version of Richie Rich). A deadly serious little brat with an attitude. Admittedly, his intelligence is lightyears beyond normal and he obtained a series of diplomas at a very young age. Plus he comes from a wealthy family and probably took everything for granted during his young life. The magic of a film doesn't only depend on the magic of the story itself, but also how amiable the main characters come across. No one could resist the charms of Harry Potter (I know. There's the comparison again.): that poor little fellow living under the stairs, with his roguish smile and lightning bolt on his forehead. I really didn't find Artemis that charming. And even the more famous actors made little impression. Colin Farrell had a depressed and sulky expression throughout the film as if he already saw the potential for disaster. Judi Dench was actually the only one to stand out in her green leather fairy outfit. But that was more because of the charismatic nature of her character Commandant Root. And Lara McDonell looked adorable as the brave fairy Holly Short. You also had a centaur who could join Milli Vanilli. The dwarf Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), who also took on the role of narrator at the same time, who's actually not a dwarf and resembles Rubeus Hagrid. And there was even the suggestion David Bowie was an elf (Talking bout humor). That's about it what I can remember from all personages. In general, however, the performances were not impressive or grand.

There's also something to be said about the footage. They've put a lot of energy into it (maybe a little too much) and the film is packed with generally good-looking CGI. But a film about fairies, trolls, and dwarfs, who live in an underground hidden world, must look fairy-like and enchanting to me. They've decided to create a futuristic-looking fairy world full of flashy vehicles and modern buildings. And stuffed with a bunch of extras, busy decors, and an infinite number of props that you'll need an extra pair of eyes to take in all the wonders. But don't panic. This magical place is soon abandoned. Most of the film is set in the residence of the Fowl family. And there you can expect even more CGI (slightly less well developed). Perhaps it was quite an exaggeration when you consider the number of special effects. The only thing that impressed me was the jaw joints of Mulch Diggums.

No, I'm not a new fan of "Artemis Fowl" and I don't feel the urge to discover the books. All in all, I found this movie version confusing and chaotic. I sometimes had the feeling that I was watching a new episode of "Kingsman" for young viewers. I didn't fully understand the principle of the time bubble and was amazed bout how Artemis could unravel everything so quickly (But yes, extremely intelligent. Right?). Maybe me being a grownup has something to do with it. I guess youngsters will like it. Although, I think my two kids, who aren't real book readers and never heard of Artemis Fowl, will be lost after 20 minutes. A re-watch might help better understanding the whole thing. I imagine fans of the books were very curious how Fowl's world would look like on the silver screen. Anyway. I won't wait for the sequels of this vague film. To put it mildly, I think the movie "Artemis Fowl" is a perfect fit for the current summer vacation that has become a disaster due to COVID-19.

A Good Woman Is Hard to Find
(2019)

A harsh and realistic revenge-flick.
Just let sleeping dogs lie.

The moment you see Sarah (Sarah "The Lazarus Effect" Bolger) turning the house upside down while looking for batteries for her non-working vibrator and hear her say "Thank you Jesus" a little later with visible relief, it seems as if she's a completely different character than the woman who came into the picture at the beginning of the film. Admittedly, a woman who still mourns her recently deceased husband. But then without blood splashes in her face and on her body. After seeing "Becky" only recently, "A good woman is hard to find" is yet another revenge film in which a desperate woman takes a thorough revenge on those who made her life a living hell. Not that she suffered physical injuries. But the murder of her husband and the way in which she is treated by society makes sure that it's best your not going to stand in Sarah's way. Those who do will experience the painful consequences.

The only thing I found a bit unrealistic was the constant apathy and misogyny displayed here. Never thought there were so many rude, insensitive and tactless people in the UK. A shop assistant who treats Sarah like a utensil and makes use of a fairly sexist language. A psychologist who shows a lack of tact. But especially the way the police treated her was totally implausible to me. Even if the activities of the deceased husband were not too kosher, that doesn't mean that this widow should be treated in such a low-minded, condescending way. And while the drug gang is notorious in this district who don't treat annoying individuals in a gentle way, it seems as if they are unknown to the local police.

In any case, "A good woman is hard to find" has a more realistic character than, say, a film like "Becky". The bleak and hopeless situation Sarah finds herself in. The gray slums in Belfast, Ireland, where drug trafficking is rampant. Lawlessness seems to be a standard in this social neighborhood. And the revenge actions can also be called quite brutal. And at the same time more plausible than in other films. When Sarah goes to the local hardware store and starts purchasing a whole arsenal of working tools, you can expect nauseating scenes. Not that it's explicitly portrayed. But the background noise and slow-motion images leave nothing to the imagination. Immediately I was thinking about "American Psycho".

Although "A good woman is hard to find" is a fairly conventional thriller that doesn't deviate from the standard rules of the genre, there are still some elements that make the film rise above average. There's the admirable acting of Sarah Bolger. A woman who has to deal with the loss of her husband on the one hand and then realizes that he actually lived a different life. The impetus for the rising violence can be traced back to petty thief Tito (Andrew Simpson). Stealing a load of drugs, belonging to the local drug lord Leo Miller (Edward Hogg), and using Sarah's house as an alternative storage place, he forces Sarah to defend herself as a determined lioness. Also, those two roles (Tito and Leo) are played properly. And finally there's the film technical aspect. Solid image quality. "A good woman is hard to find" is in all respects a dark and depressing film that shows the harsh reality of life in a hard and realistic way. An intense trip, as it were.

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Keepers
(2018)

You liked "The Lighthouse"? I guess you'll like this one too.
Okay, as far as I can see it, this... this is payback! For having to live the rest of my life with his face etched into my brain.

Every now and then I come across a completely unknown film I don't really expect much from, despite the presence of a well-known sounding name, but which nevertheless pleasantly surprises me. "The Vanishing" is a thriller pur sang. A fictional story about a true event, namely the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in 1900 who stayed on one of the Flannan islands on the west coast of Scotland. The three men James Ducat (Gerard Butler), Thomas Marshall (Peter Mullan), and Donald MacArthur (Connor Swindells) have never been found. Nobody had a real explanation and soon several speculations circulated. From a giant sea snake to giant seagulls. Or maybe they went up in smoke to start a new life. Kidnapping by spies was also an option. Even an alien kidnapping. This film aims to give a more plausible explanation. But it nevertheless remains an unproven and therefore fictional story.

Don't expect any supernatural apparition. First of all, "The Vanishing" is a realistic look at the life of a lighthouse keeper at the beginning of the 20th century. The rugged sailor life in which these seasoned sea dogs brave the briny deep unflinchingly as they make their way to that boulder in the middle of the ocean. Something rookie Donald clearly isn't used to, so he experiences the trip while hanging over the railing. Largest part of the film you see how these men dutifully perform their tasks on the island. Not that there's really a lot to do. The main task is to ensure that the beacon of the lighthouse is working properly and that the glass surrounding it looks optima forma. They spend the rest of their time singing, cooking, sleeping, and strolling around the island. Not really madly exciting.

Until newcomer Donald finds a splintered boat, a lifeless drowned man, and a locked wooden box between the rocks. And when the content of the mysterious box is being revealed, the time has come for tensions to rise. From that moment on, mistrust and greed play a major role. There is such an ominous mood in the air. You get the feeling that every moment the situation will explode and one of the three keepers will erupt into violent anger. But ultimately the three don't pose a threat to each other, but third parties play a greater role. I won't reveal too much, but expect a serious escalation of the situation at some point.

"The Vanishing" was a relief after seeing so many mediocre and forgettable nonsensical feature films. Not only the footage turns this film into a gem. The acting is also phenomenally beautiful. Not only the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere is impressive. There are also some melodramatic moments in which hidden distress comes to the surface, resulting in conversations full of meaningful silences and heavy words. You'll also witness some lurid scenes such as the cleaning up of dead gulls after a heavy storm ("You may have to break the wings to get 'em in."). But for me, Gerard Butler was a real eye-opener. He usually appears in one of those a dime a dozen action films (with the exception of a single film like "A family man"). But here he also shows that he knows how to act. Never thought a movie about lighthouse keepers would be worth watching. Well, apparently it is. And that's also a reason to finally check out "The Lighthouse"! Lights out, lighthouse spotlight on.

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Penance Lane
(2020)

Captivating begin. Disappointing ending.
I'm gonna get us out of this. We're gonna be okay.

"Penance Lane" is something for the fans of cheaply produced B-horror movies that don't exactly excel when it comes to the storyline. I was actually very curious about this movie after reading the synopsis on IMDb. And the movie poster also looked interesting. So let me say that I started watching the film with a dose of healthy enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm collapsed halfway through the film like a soufflé that has just come out of the oven. It's a pity though, because the first half was of a decent level.

The prologue in itself made me curious enough and confirmed what I expected. A dilapidated house where some gang members hid after committing a robbery. Such a gang of "badasses" with impressive guns and an attitude as if they can handle the whole world. Unfortunately, they are no match for what is harassing them from dark corners and dark places in this creepy house. Why this was actually the most compelling part of the movie, I don't really have an explanation for. Maybe because you don't really know which direction it will go. Is it something demonic or will it be a "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" kind of film?

Time to introduce the protagonist. Crimson Matthews (Tyler Mane) strolls around the town streets. An ex-convict with a rugged appearance. He gets into a fight with the son of the local Police Captain, when it turns out that this son uses his girlfriend (Scout Taylor-Compton) as a punching bag, and then meets the owner (mother of the girl in question) of the local diner. Crimson doesn't waste any time and almost immediately seeks a job as a handyman. And he ends up at the abandoned house, apparently owned by the local priest (John Schneider) who hires him without further ado. From the start, it's clear that our tough hero doesn't intend to demonstrate ingenious handyman-techniques. It's also evident that it's no coincidence he ended up in this house. And that his night's rest would be disturbed by something that wanders through the house like a shadow, was also to be expected. Despite the fact that there's sometimes a bit of too exaggerated acting and toe-curling, clumsy dialogues are being used, the film remained fascinating. Till this point anyway. Because somewhere in the middle of the film, the plot twist presents itself and the tone of the film changes drastically.

If you look at "Penance Lane" in its entirety in terms of storyline and overall look and feel, you could say that it belongs to Rob Zombie's oeuvre (albeit among the less successful creations). Coincidentally, there are a number of actors who also appeared in a Rob Zombie movies before. Like Tyler Mane who played Michael Myers in "Halloween II". Scout Taylor-Compton also played an important role in that film. And then there's Daniel Roebuck (the Police Captain) who got a role in almost every Rob Zombie movie. It may not have affected the creators of this film, but the least you can say is that it's extremely coincidental. I'm not a real Rob Zombie adept but I could appreciate his flick "31".

In the end, "Penance Lane" was a disappointment for me. If the gradation of my enthusiasm were graphed, I'm sure it would resemble any COVID-19 graph. Except that there's no sign of a "flatten the curve" effect. After its peak, the curve goes very fast to a zero point. Maybe my expectations weren't met because the concept changed drastically. In the end, it became a kind of thriller without supernatural apparitions. Rather a crime story in which an insane individual has set up a lucrative business activity. The story made no sense and at some point became downright ridiculous. I have learned the following lesson from this. No matter how good a summary sounds or what a movie poster looks like, it's never a guarantee the movie will be any good. And yet there was, somewhere deeply hidden, an excellent film. Unfortunately, they failed to conjure it.

Becky
(2020)

Complete nonsense but immensely entertaining.
Becky is as strong-willed and vindictive as they come and you just tortured and killed her only living parent.

Feel like watching a straightforward "home invasion" film with dangerous-looking thugs (impressive body length, coarse facial features, and imposing tattoos on the back of their bald heads) taking an innocent family hostage? Well, in that case, "Becky" is the right movie for you. As with "Bushwick", also directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, you don't have to wait long for the violence to erupt. First, there's a brief introduction of the main characters Becky (Lulu Wilson) and father Jeff (Joel McHale), who wants to spend a weekend with his girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). Subsequently, you'll see a violent escape from a prisoner transport by Dominick (Kevin James) and his cronies Apex (Robert Maillet), Cole (Ryan McDonald), and Hammond (James McDouglas). And then you can get ready for an hour of unabashed terror and bloody butchery.

Frankly, the film isn't really inventive and will certainly not stand out among other similar creations. But I have to admit I had a lot of fun watching it. It was a moment of relaxation and a relief for me to forget the Corona crap briefly. Perhaps also because of its simplicity and the straightforward approach this film had to offer. You actually know in advance what the outcome will be. As I mentioned in my review about "Eye for an eye". You can be certain that the nasty gang members will get the short end of the stick. The movie "Becky" comes with one condition. You have to ignore the fact that a 13-year-old girl is able to wipe the floor with four grown-up guys. In short, if you don't take this film too seriously, it's digestible. Otherwise, you'll only be annoyed by it.

Most notable appearance is of course Kevin James who makes a huge career switch by portraying a relentless neo-Nazi. It took me a while to realize it was the "Kevin Can Wait" actor. Someone who usually appears in light-hearted television shows and belongs in yet another Sandler film. The transformation from an oh-so-cozy, over-friendly (Santa-ish) guy to a chilly, beastly Third Reich supporter (and member of some Brotherhood that defends the Aryan race) with an imposing, shaggy beard, is impressive. Opposite these behemoths (especially the aforementioned Apex) is this skinny thirteen-year-old girl with her pink backpack, glitter-decorated smartphone, and a similar bear hat as Jack wore in "Room". Not exactly a worthy opponent for these four brutes. But then the aspect of improbability comes into play and the gentlemen realize that they were a bit wrong about this girl.

Yes, "Becky" is a bit of a nonsense movie. The reason why these four idiots terrorize this family also remains a mystery. And what's the relationship between the gang members? Like Dominick and Apex. Do they have family ties? And is the passing of her mother the only reason why Becky resolutely draws the card of revenge? Or does she have a more sinister past? But despite the lack of character development and substantive explanations, I'd say that "Becky" is an entertaining gory thriller. An adult "Home Alone" version where creative assault weapons are manufactured resulting in painful-looking (A hidden metaphor by coincidence) injuries. It's not one of the best revenge movies, but also not one of the worst.

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Gretel & Hansel
(2020)

An aesthetically beautiful film.
Tell me the fairy tale again. It's too scary, you'll start seeing things that aren't there.

In recent years we have been flooded with live-action versions of well-known Disney fairy tales. These usually follow the fairytale story without deviation. Even the appearance and atmosphere are mostly identical to the original. However, this isn't the case with "Gretel & Hansel". Director Osgood Perkins has gone to great lengths to make it an idiosyncratic creation. It largely corresponds to the original story of the Brothers Grimm. But the moral of the story is very different from the original fairy tale. So, no nasty stepmother. No pebbles or bread crumbs. In the original fairy tale, Hans was more inventive. Here he's a helpless little fellow dependent on his bigger sister. But it's mainly the role Gretel plays in this story and how this character evolves. Hence probably also the switching of the names in the film title, which indicates Gretel's part is more important.

The period in which it takes place is comparable to that in "The VVitch" or "Apostle". Most likely at the time of the great famine in the 14th century, when it was difficult for many to survive. Most lived in shabby houses and had no means to meet their daily needs. Similarly, the mother of Gretel and Hans, who chases the children out of the house with unmistakable words (and a dangerous-looking lumberjack ax). First, they are advised by a friendly man to look for work and join a group of lumberjacks and especially not to deviate from the path. Hunger and the discovery of delicious looking mushroom causes the two children to leave the path and discover a black house in the forest.

The mushroom scene can be called amusing and already suggests that this film is certainly not an accessible version of the known fairy tale. It's also not recommended to watch this with your kids as you did with "The Lion King". This film is too dark, gloomy, and perhaps too terrifying for small children. Even though I found the label "horror" a bit exaggerated. "Gretel & Hansel" isn't really creepy. Don't expect the typical elements of a horror. No jump scares. No gory scenes or possessed creepy persons. But certainly, you'll experience an unpleasant and disturbing feeling throughout the whole movie. An intense, eery atmosphere in which you are immersed.

I also fear that due to its artistic character and experimental production, this morbid fairy tale isn't for everyone. Many horror fans will be terribly disappointed and rather portray it as a pretentious movie. Evildoers are of course the lack of tension and the slow pace. But for me, it was the unique atmosphere and the imaginative story that made it an exciting experience. The design of the witch house (without gingerbread walls decorated with all kinds of sweetness) will confuse you. A pitch-black, modernist house built with contemporary materials and styles. Not exactly something you will start nibbling on. On the one hand, the interior is characteristic of that specific time. But on the other hand, there are also style features that belong to the present era. And the richly filled table full of delicious stews and pastries is a feast for the eyes.

What appealed to me the most was the excellent cast. Alice Krige as the terrifying and devilish witch in particular was simply fabulous. And Sophia Lillis also plays the role of Gretel convincingly. A young girl with unexpected future prospects. The beautiful music and sound effects together with the used color palette, provided a special atmosphere. Only the denouement I found a bit unfortunate and not appropriate for the slow tempo of the film. I can certainly enjoy a straightforward version of a fairy tale. But this contrary version managed to surprise me. Definitely a film for those who love aesthetically beautiful films.

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Proximity
(2020)

Slick footage. Substandard storyline.
Paging ET, please phone home.

"Proximity" had potential. The film partially redeemed this but then blatantly fails on a completely different level. With a film about alien abduction, there's one particular expectation wherewith the film stands or falls. And that's the look of the spacecraft with which those green men fly around. In many SF movies with the same subject, this is either shown only briefly. Or the design and special effects are so pitifully bad that you wished those alien tourists instantly have an engine problem and crash down with their ugly flying saucer. But when Isaac (Ryan Mason) early in the movie sees the spinning vehicle fly above him, I noticed his approving look. Not because he liked the design, but because his conviction was confirmed in this way. Me on the other hand, probably had an approving look because the spaceship looked really good. Unfortunately, this fact alone could not save the film.

Believe me. Cinematographically, this film looks slick. The used special effects clearly show that director Eric Demeusy is no novice. The experience he gained with "Tron: Legacy" as a 3D animator and other projects clearly paid off. So no blurry images with bad special effects. And no situations where you get the feeling that the spacecraft were hung on a silk threads to move them that way. Even the aliens looked fine and credible. So in terms of imaging, it's okay. And this even during the entire film.

I also found the story promising in the beginning. Nerdy looking Isaac (Ryan Masson) who's convinced aliens exist and looks at computer screens every day to watch bleeps from satellites, almost faints when one day, during a bike ride, a silver flying saucer flies over him. Lucky he has a camera (Betamax model) with him to film the event. He can even capture a "close encounter" with a real Martian. Next, he's beamed up (just like a genuine Enterprise crew member) and awakens somewhere in a field. Unharmed but with a gigantic 3-day hole in his memory. What follows is a chaotic period for Isaac. A period in which he tries to make clear to the world that he was kidnapped by aliens. And then we get a perfect demonstration of how things are in our society today. One day you'll be hailed and adored. The next day you are booed, razed to the ground, and buried under reproaches and incriminating allegations.

Till here, the story was still amusing and interesting. The hassle of uploading the video and the subsequent reactions and comments. The invitation by a television program and the disappointment by Isaac. The fuss that arises on the internet and then Isaac's search for fellow victims and like-minded people. It felt "Goonies" -like and reminiscent of the bygone days when Spielberg scored high with his SF films about "close encounters". There was even an "E.T." joke used by the two nerds in the lab. And then halfway through, the film gets a completely absurd twist. "Men in Black" clones suddenly show up. And the film suddenly takes on Star Wars allures. Together with the beautiful Sara (Highdee Kuan), a fellow girl who has experienced something similar, Isaac flees from a mysterious government agency. Zed (Christian Prentice), the phenomenon in Costa Rica, was the most hilarious part of the movie. This whizzkid owns a treehouse in the middle of the jungle (Yeah really!) where he hacks NASA servers. How he can have a connection with the internet there, is a mystery to me. I sometimes have poor reception in my kitchen here. And I'm certain I'm living in that part of the world that's civilized enough to make sure it's top-notch. In any case, the story becomes increasingly nonsensical by the minute. Not to mention the denouement where the aliens reveal what they are looking for on earth. Completely laughable.

All in all, it's admirable what they've achieved in this low-budget SF. In terms of footage and imagery, the film is simply overwhelming. The special effects look fantastic. There's also little to complain about the acting itself. Masson's acting is almost perfect. Highdee Kuan is a perfect addition. And the character Zed is highly entertaining. But unfortunately, it's especially the storyline that's below par. I suggest Demeusy hires a professional scriptwriter the next time to support his professional-looking visuals.

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Quien a hierro mata
(2019)

Excellent Spanish Revenge movie.
One harsh word or lack of respect for my father, and I come here and raise hell.

Revenge movies. Nothing is more fun than watching a blood-curdling film in which a victim, who has been beaten to a pulp or almost tortured to death, resurrects and ruthlessly and cruelly takes revenge on his or her assailants. Revenge films come in different variations and gradations. The only similarity they have is that those who are the cause of all the misery generally get the short end of the stick (except in "Eden Lake"). Revenge films have been in circulation for a long time and yet form a tasteful subgenre. Who remembers "The Toxic Avenger"? A hilarious and bloody film in which a nerd, constantly being bullied by local kids, mutates into a nasty chemical creature that takes revenge in a violent way. Or the controversial film "I Spit on Your Grave"? "Revenge", "Hard Candy" and "John Wick"? The line is big and always has one outcome: mutilated perpetrator(s) and a victim who leaves the past behind with his/her head held high and determinedly faces a new, carefree future.

In "Quien a Hierro Mata" (aka "Eye For an Eye"), the protagonist Mario (Louis Tosar) cannot completely let go of the past. Images from that period haunt his mind and everything indicates that this nurse at a senior care facility can never settle for the injustice done to his family. The seemingly calm and easy-going caretaker nevertheless has a bright future ahead of him. His wife Julia (María Vázquez) is pregnant with their first child. Nothing seems to get in the way of happiness. Until one day Antonio Padin (Xan Cejudo), the notorious head of a drug cartel, has decided to exchange prison life for a stay in the retirement home where Mario is employed. Antonio Padin suffers from a terminal illness that slowly paralyzes him. And apparently, the relationship between him and his two sons Toño (Ismael Martinez) and Kike (Enric Auquer) is so sour that he opts for the retirement home rather than waiting for his end at home. By coincidence, there's a link between Mario and this deteriorating old man that causes Mario to slowly transform from a good-natured person into an avenging angel with a dark plan.

Let me immediately warn the action movie fetishists. This is not a Hollywood film in which the action scenes follow each other at a shockingly fast pace. The film is a real slow-burner, with some violent scenes here and there in the first half. Just to demonstrate that the Padin family aren't only hard-working entrepreneurs, operating a thriving crab-industry with associated culinary establishments. You'll see that the traps on their fishing boats can also be used for other purposes. And when the two brothers visit their father in the retirement home, just to report to him about their future plans with Chinese customers, they make sure everybody knows that they are untouchable and feared individuals. Kike in particular is an annoying guy with a short fuse who, even without hesitation, questions his father's mental health and treats him disrespectfully.

"Quien a Hierro Mata" is a dark and gripping thriller that excels thanks to its raw realism and the way in which various actors portray it. All credit to Louis Tosar for showing in a solid way how a tragic past (shown through a whole lot of flashbacks) determines how he judges over certain actions. The imposing beard hides every emotion. His character immediately reminded me of Joaquin Phoenix in "You were never really here". The ius talionis principle that he applies here (hence the film title) is what makes this film more unique compared to other revenge films. This vigilante ensures that the perpetrator undergoes the same treatment under the same circumstances. Let's put the make-up department in the spotlight as well. Because, the way Antonio is slowly changing looks terrifying. I was just wondering if Antonio Padin noticed what was happening to him.

I admit it. I've been pleasantly surprised by Spanish-language films several times already. After "Aterrados" and "El Hoyo" I also thought this was a successful film. Certainly not a disappointment, after I started watching it on Netflix without any prior knowledge. First of all, you think this is an average revenge movie with the same known storyline. But this soon changes due to the sudden twist and the shocking denouement. It's wonderful to see how they've managed to change the tone of this film from ordinary to moderately chaotic aggressive. The film shows how deep-seated hatred can change a person. It's not an exceptional film, but it's relentless and definitely worth watching. I was just wondering one thing. How is it that this retirement home didn't simply refuse the admission of a known and feared drug lord?

"Quien a Hierro Mata" is now available on Netflix

The Way Back
(2020)

Ben Affleck acts superbly in this not-so-original sports movie.
I'm surprised you could keep him out of the bar long enough to hold practice.

There are lots of similar sports movies like "The Way Back". Moralistic stories about how a trainer manages to bring a floundering team to unprecedented heights. Preferably, the team consists of a few foul-mouthed hotheads who want to impress the others by acting tough. Usually, they have a talent for the sport they practice, but lack of discipline makes them miss constancy. To the annoyance of the appointed coach at that moment. Of course, they are allergic to any type of authoritarian behavior. Until the new coach comes up. Preferably an old sports star who can look back on a successful sports career and who comes to the rescue by using clever pedagogical techniques. First of all, he gives each of the team members a figurative kick in the butt. Suspends the most rebellious pain in the ass (who of course comes back crawling to ask if he can be re-included in the team because the sport is vital for him). Then the grueling training sessions begin in such a way that this bunch of misfits finally starts winning games and slowly propel them to stardom. You saw it in "Coach Carter", "Slap Shot" and to a lesser extent in "Major League". "The Way Back" follows this same scenario. Only here the coach is also struggling with his personal demons.

I'm not a real Ben Affleck fan. Not that I think he's a bad actor. Maybe the movie choices he made were a bit unfortunate. With "Daredevil" as the most terrible career choice, in my opinion. But here Affleck shows that he does have acting talent. Perhaps personal life experiences are the reason why he was able to empathize with the role of coach Jack easily. A tormented person who lost everything after a tragic event and sought refuge in drinking. Something Affleck has experience with since he has already admired the inside of a rehabilitation center several times. Probably because of this that the scenes during which he carelessly drinks, look so realistic. As well as the way he behaves when he's not in a bar. The manipulation, the sneaking around, and the search for excuses. Typical behavior of an addict trying to hide his weakness. "The Way Back" tries to portray this addiction meticulously. If you see the umpteenth beercan disappear from the fridge while a spare one is already put in the freezer to stay cold, you as a viewer know that Jack is not a social drinker but a problem drinker with a fixed routine.

Like many other film productions, "The Way Back" has been disadvantaged by the Corona pandemic. Had the original release date not been shifted from late 2019 to March this year, the damage would have been limited. Hence Warner Bross's decision to release this movie directly on various platforms such as iTunes and Prime video among others. Now, I myself don't consider it a requirement to watch "The way back" in a cinema. Apart from the admirable acting of Affleck, this film is nothing more than an average film that doesn't impress in terms of originality. It seems as if a pre-printed checklist has been used for this type of film. A group of young people with a wrong attitude and who, as a basketball team, wallows in the role of the underdog. Check! Ex basketball player whose life is in a downward spiral. Check! Miraculous revival of the despised basketball team. Check! Family tragedy that ruined the coach's life. Check! Obviously a relapse happens. Check! Once again a miraculous resurgence leading to a happy ending. Check! It feels like a three-pointer every time a check is placed on this list.

In short. The film won't win a prize in the category of originality. The already well-trodden paths of previously released sports dramas are followed too carefully. But what Ben Affleck demonstrates here (and I know I'm repeating myself) makes that this movie effortlessly exceeds the average. Only the way and period in which he defeated his demons, felt romanticized. And finally, you should not confuse this film with the 2010 film of the same name about a Polish prisoner who could escape from a Russian gulag with some fellow sufferers. The only similarity the Ben Affleck film has with the latter is that the road followed by the group of young people is also full of obstacles. And giving up is also not an option. So if you run into it anywhere on a VOD channel, give it a try. It's not really a waste of time.

Z
(2019)

Come on, it's just an imaginary friend.
Z likes it dark.

Movies with creepy little boys. With "Z" you also have the feeling you are getting yet another horror in which such a demonic boy is in command. Only recently I saw "The Prodigy" where the son of the house slowly develops a deviating pattern of behavior. That movie was about reincarnation. In "Z" it's about having an imaginary friend. When Joshua Parsons (Jett Klyne) introduces his friend "Z" to his parents, they don't really worry at first. They think it's probably just a phase their kid has to struggle through. They even think it's cute, in a certain way. Until suddenly school friends don't want anything to do with Josh anymore, Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) becomes aware of strange things and finally, Joshua is also suspended from school because of intolerable behavior. At that moment, Elizabeth starts to realize that this imaginary friend has a tremendous influence on her sweet son.

Until halfway through the film it seems like an ordinary average horror. Including, something terrible happening to one of Joshua's school friends (with or without Z's collaboration) and Joshua revealing a horrible drawing in his bedroom. Believe me. Draw a black top hat on the head of this scary creature and you have the twin brother of "The Babadook" in front of you. Now is the time for Elizabeth to sound the alarm, while dad Kevin (Sean Rogerson) is still in a phase of denial and suffers from utter blindness, and get in touch with psychologist Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie) to present the problem. The well-known tricks from the horror genre are being used in "Z" of course. So again the shady spots with scary sounds. Toys that come to life. And nocturnal wanderings through the semi-darkness (while every sensible person would turn on the light anyway) with a few jump-scares as a result. Even a creepy bath scene couldn't fail to come.

And yet the film cleverly changes the mood and shifts the focus from a scary invisible friend to a long-forgotten childhood trauma that set the whole mechanism in motion. And before you realize it, the creepy horror story has given way to a sort of psychological thriller. From here, Joshua is no longer central, but the story focuses on Elizabeth. And frankly, the way Keegan Connor Tracy gives shape to this character was of exceptionally high level. An obviously confused person who slowly but surely sinks further into complete madness as a tormented soul. The father's character contrasts sharply with that of his family members. In the end, I found it a meaningless person and quite implausible as a father figure. On the one hand, he said nothing about the red notes from school that exposed Joshua's misconduct. On the other hand, he's blind with anger when hearing that his son has been prescribed medication without his knowledge. Ah, as always in horror movies, it's usually the fathers who navigate through the story carefree and never notice anything suspicious. It's usually the mother figure who experiences strange sensations and concludes that disaster is imminent.

I can't say the film "Z" was really scary. Maybe deliberately not depicting the phenomenon "Z" explicitly, does cause some tension. A cleverly applied gimmick so the viewer's imagination has to do most of the work (with a terrifying wall drawing as inspiration). Ultimately, it's mainly the mood that's essential in this film. In hindsight, the film covers different topics. Youthful growing pains and parental concerns. Nightmarish phantoms and unresolved trauma. As a parent, you expect your offspring to inherit some of your character traits or personal qualities. However, in "Z" this legacy is not something you'd expect. And even though this delusion isn't excessively visualized here, its presence is clearly felt in every dark, grim scene.

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The Banker
(2020)

A film that turns out to be even more topical because of the present situation in the US.
Sometimes you need to take a step back and enjoy what you've accomplished, baby.

What an amusing movie this was. Such a movie you start watching and before you know it, the end credits roll across your screen. Even though the subject won't get you very excited. The world of real estate and banking. A world populated with stiffs in perfectly fitting suits who prefer to juggle with repayment schedules and capitalization rates while using a jargon that a normal human can't make heads or tails of. I sometimes have my doubts about whether they understand it thoroughly themselves. And the reason why it became an entertaining film is not only due to the packaging but also because of the Holy Trinity Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult. A colorful (pun not intended) cast that effortlessly works through dialogues and plays so naturally that it seems as if they have been working together for years.

In addition to the real estate market as a subject, there's also the issue of racial discrimination that was still visible in the U.S. from the 50s. A black man who wants to settle in a white neighborhood wasn't so obvious. Let alone that he could also take out a loan to buy and sell real estate in such a neighborhood. Hence the idea of Bernard (Anthony Mackie), a Texas-born African-American who is firmly convinced to succeed in his intent to make money from doing business rather than manual labor, to recruit Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) as a business partner and use Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) as a straw man. Well, they aren't exactly ideal partners. The first is a flamboyant bon vivant and blabbermouth who comes across as an untrustworthy slick. And Matt is a hard worker with a good heart. Only he's not really blessed with a top-level brain like Bernard.

The first half of the movie is the more light-hearted part. The start of the Bernard Empire and the process of turning Matt Steiner into a convincing businessman. For me, this was the most hilarious part. The golf lessons where Samuel L. Jackson excels as the extravagant golf teacher and the math part Bernard takes care of. The amusing discussion that Steiner had with a wealthy man while trying to buy his building, was the ultimate climax of this period of training. And when this first chapter is over and the gentlemen are gradually taking over the real estate market in California, the next chapter pops up. The more serious part of the movie.

The first part not only showed how the two gentlemen managed to circumvent the discriminatory way of doing business in a devious way. It also showed how black people were deprived of the right to develop themselves in American society during that period. Loans and property sales were simply forbidden. Bernard's plan to subsequently buy a bank in Texas, where segregation was still very much present, in order to support his black fellow man, is what you see in this tailpiece. Needless to say, this wasn't a smooth operation.

"The Banker" is based on true facts and I believe it truly shows how it went in the U.S. and how people were deprived of decent housing. Perhaps Bernard Garrett intended to act as a benefactor and pave the way for African Americans. Maybe he was doing it out of self-interest, too, simply to prove to himself and his father that you could succeed if you firmly believe in it. Anyway, "The Banker" is a great movie with a serious part and a very entertaining part. But as I mentioned earlier, it's the cast that takes the whole thing to a higher level. A must-see for sure.

The Banker is now available on Apple TV+

PS. I wrote this a week ago. But due to the situation in the U.S. right now, this movie is even more current and confrontational than before.

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Uncorked
(2020)

Family values and a lot of wine.
Okay, so I want to become a master sommelier. Is that like a pirate? No, that's a Somalian.

I don't have a thing for wine. Never had. Even an excellent wine, recommended by connoisseurs, won't appeal to me. I never liked the taste of it. Why the hell would I watch a movie that focuses on the world of wines? Well, it's just a coincidence. I discovered "Uncorked" while browsing Netflix and thought I'd give it a shot. And also because I didn't make the link between the movie title and the whole wine happening. To be honest, I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the part about getting a sommelier diploma. The barbecue restaurant storyline, on the other hand, was mouth-watering. And as the film progressed, my hunger pangs intensified. And that didn't happen since "Chef".

Well, the film doesn't only consist of scenes in which wine bottles are uncorked and someone trying to identify this divine beverage while gurgling and spitting it out. This Netflix drama is also about the inner conflict Elijah (Mamoudou "Underwater" Athie) struggles with. This determined young man from Memphis, whose daily routine consists of helping out in the family business and working in the local wine store, has to make an all-important decision in his life. Either disappoint his father. Either himself. His father Louis (Courtney B. "Ben is back" Vance) is convinced his son will take over the family business in the future. Just like Louis did from his father. And Elijah is increasingly realizing that the profession of a master sommelier is more dear to him than marinating and barbequing spare ribs.

So "Uncorked" brings the well-known theme about a generation gap. On the one hand, Elijah doesn't want to abandon his father. On the other hand, he's still looking for his aim in life. His heart and soul belongs to the sparkling world of wines. A way to mentally travel to other countries ("When I get a wine from someplace like France, someplace like Spain, I just feel like I'm kinda there."), as a compensation for the lack of this in his youth. The problem is that his father doesn't believe anymore in the person Elijah and sees it as yet another insane idea that his son has. And he shows that by acting indifferent and disinterested. Needless to say, there is, of course, Sylvia (Niecy Nash), the concerned and supportive mother figure who properly convinces her husband to let Elijah work it out of his system. She's the missing link between the two poorly communicating vessels, while she herself has to deal with her own health problem.

"Uncorked" is an average movie. A movie that you'd watch while sitting relaxed on your sofa, with or without a glass of wine within reach. A film with a smile and a tear. The humor is not often present but sometimes subtle. For example, the Somalis debacle elicited a brief chuckle. And all this with a soundtrack filled with contemporary hip-hop music that belongs more to the spare ribs house than to the cultured world of wine connoisseurs. It's a movie you love or dislike, just like with wine. Family values and chasing your dreams are the key topics that I'll remember from this movie. But I can't say that the urge for drinking wine got any bigger after watching this Netflix movie.

Uncorked is now available on Netflix

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Jumanji: The Next Level
(2019)

Let's bury that devilish game once and for all.
If you touch my boobs, I will murder you! Too late! That was the first thing I did.

In recent years, the terms "Remake" and "Reboot" have become very popular in Hollywood. Much to my annoyance. In most cases, these knockoffs are just a shadow of the original. Not to say abominably bad and horrible to look at. The biggest example of this (for me personally anyway) is the movie "Ghostbusters" from 2016. If Bill Murray was no longer among the living, he would have turned around in his grave. A needless copy without humor and full of recycled ideas. A few years ago when I was told that a remake was being made of the famous film "Jumanji" (with the unparalleled Robin Williams in a leading role) from 1995, I was shocked. And certainly when it turned out that Dwayne Johnson hijacked the leading role. Yet another redundant and ridiculous attempt to imitate a past milestone.

To my surprise, however, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" turned out to be an exceptionally successful experiment. And that's because of the unique idea to replace the "Jumanji board game" with an old skool console game where four innocent students are teleported into and where they need to complete a quest while playing a character in this game. It's the only way to escape the game. Not only was it a funny movie (due to the interactions and personality contradictions between the real youngsters and their avatar in the video game). The concept was also original. Adding video game features such as NPCs, cut scenes, and the fact that each character has a limited number of lives, was a masterful move. It's not without reason that the film was a real success in the theaters. And the inevitable happened. The sequel "Jumanji: The next level" is a fact.

Unfortunately, as I feared, this new sequel doesn't take the saga to a new level. To be honest, I thought it was simply an uninspired story that simply tries to take advantage of the previous film's success. An easy solution to squeeze the last dollars out of a milked-out project. The novelties can be counted on a broken abacus. Not many, in this case. The characters are all still the same. This time supplemented with two old grumpy retirees (Danny DeVito and Danny Glover) who used to be business partners when they owned a thriving restaurant. As with every new level in a video game, the environment in which the adventure takes place is different from the previous level. So you'll be presented with a sandy location with associated oases. And also, our friends will encounter a completely different fauna on their path.

The most successful aspect of this sequel is the fact that the different characters were initially mixed. That makes for hilarious moments when you see Dwayne Johnson imitating the characteristics of a Dany DeVito. But besides that, there's nothing innovative to discover in this sequel. It's a well-known story with a new look. It's the same as when a new "FIFA Soccer" version is being released on the game market. Graphically it may look a bit sharper and some new players and options have been added. But otherwise, the look and feel are similar and you have trouble discovering the points of improvement. Well, "Jumanji: The Next Level" was entertaining and packed with sometimes masterful CGI. A good alternative to fill a pleasant movie night. But the source from which creative ideas are created is exhausted. Let's hope they bury the game "Jumanji" in a well-hidden spot once and for all, so nobody can lay their hands on it again. I think we've had enough of this.

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El hoyo
(2019)

It's brutal. Confronting. Repugnant. Yet fascinating.
Don't speak to the people below. Why? Because they're down below. The people above won't answer you. Why? Because they're above. Obviously!

"El Hoyo" is not just a frightening movie. It's a movie with a moral. A film that makes you think. Could you call it horror? You could have an extensive discussion about this. For some of the detainees who are locked up in the prison portrayed in this film, it's indeed horror. It depends on which floor they end up after a month of extensive eating or a month of terrible hunger. The first thing that came to mind was "Hey, they designed a vertical "Snowpiercer". Be warned though. It's brutal. Confronting. And as I said before, a moral lurks beneath the symbolic surface.

However, the set-up of the film is very simple. Take a sky-high building. A magically moving platform (hence the movie title). A group of convicts who are locked in groups of two on each floor. Finally, you establish a culinary department full of kitchen staff who all master the right culinary skills. And this department ensures that this platform is filled with delicacies every day with the same dose of enthusiasm, dedication, and love for their profession. From roasts, fruit bowls, and enormous chocolate cakes to haute cuisine with langoustines, lobster, and other gastronomically refined food. You can guess the outcome. As the platform sinks, the richly filled table turns into a desolate table full of empty dishes, pots, and smashed dinnerware, where you can't even find a crumb on anymore.

Despite the simple concept and the fact that the entire film is set in one location, the film remains fascinating until the end. The denouement, however, is rather disappointing. That's the only thing that put a damper on this film. Not that everything is very clear in this film. Why this facility has been designed in this way, isn't explained anywhere. Is it to talk a conscience into the viewers? Is it a psychologically justified experiment? Or was there just someone random who came up with this brilliant idea to design this alternative penal institution? Besides, it's not only convicts who were admitted here. Take Goreng (Ivan Massagué). This person will receive a diploma (as a social worker?) after serving a 6-month prison sentence. Is it a form of an internship? Or self-flagellation? Even the mechanism behind the falling platform remained a mystery to me. But I got no problem with these unresolved questions. Unfortunately, the main question of how the system could be beaten is left unanswered. Or was it just the intention to leave everyone in the dark?

It's crystal clear they tried to deliver a socially critical message. It's broadly an allegorical representation of our contemporary society. A society with an unfair distribution of prosperity and richness. And the vast majority of those who own the most wealth in our society, are disinclined to share it with those of the lower classes. And the plea of the less fortunate falls on deaf ears, so they are doomed to rely on less humane practices. And, of course, there are the world improvers among us and people thinking they are a newborn St. Martin, who make frantic efforts to convince others to participate in working on a better world and to call for solidarity. A fairer world. And mocking laughter and derision are usually the results of their efforts. The only difference with real life is that people change in the social ladder from month to month in this prison. Some in a positive, others in a negative way.

"El Hoyo" is a bizarre story that leaves you with an oppressive feeling. As the film progresses you realize how awful it is for some in this gray, grim tower. And these abject conditions are also explicitly shown. Suffocatingly realistic. So expect some bloody and gory images full of excessive violence as well (not suitable for sensitive souls). For some, the sight of men eating food like animals (which reminded me a bit of "La Grande Bouffe"), it will be repugnant already. But otherwise, this original film is easy to digest (just to stay with the subject). And not only because of the splendid acting. It's not without reason that the film is a great success on Netflix. So you can see that this film platform occasionally programs better movies.

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Trauma Center
(2019)

No surprise this flick ended up as an "On Demand".
What I want is not on you. It's in you.

It looks a bit like "Die Hard" in a hospital wing. Only the adamant John McClane has been replaced by the brave waitress Madison Taylor (Nicky Whelan) who has to save her own skin (and admittedly, that skin belongs to a beautiful, well-shaped body) while two mean-looking fellows are chasing her. And yes, the action hero par excellence, Bruce Willis, admired in days gone by for his contributions to action films and of course idolized during that period, is also present. This time, however, he's not competing for the main prize as "Most valuable actor". His contribution is quite limited and in the end you can say it's insignificant. A negligible character who clearly has to drag himself through every scene while running behind the facts.

What's wrong with star actor Bruce Willis? The sympathetic actor of yesteryear, who during his heyday was able to transform every crap film into a blockbuster, is slowly but surely working on destroying his status. In recent years it seems as if he has consciously opted for bland, uninspired B-movies with a flimsy screenplay. When looking at the list of films, with him in a central role, that I've seen in recent years, there's really nothing worthwhile to discover. The films "The Prince", "Vice", "Extraction", "Precious Cargo", "Marauders", "First Kill", "Acts of Violence" and "Reprisal" are all monstrosities of movies that aren't even worth viewing. The only movie I liked was "Once Upon a Time in Venice". It's the only film in which Willis demonstrates an unforced enthusiasm. Apparently, being an actor is precious to Willis. However, I recommend that he makes the honorable decision himself and quietly use his hard-earned dollars to enjoy a well-earned vacation for the rest of his life. And it'll spare most of the film fans a lot of annoyance.

Anyway. So if you forget the lifeless contribution of Bruce Willis, ignore the many improbabilities, won't see the ridiculousness in some situations, and accept the shameless copying of some corresponding situations from "Die Hard", then this movie isn't all that bad. Admittedly, there's no longer a lot of credit left. And no doubt, lead actress Nicky Whelan deserves the remainder of this credit. Although it's sometimes annoying to see how her condition can radically improve from one scene to the next. One moment she stumbles through a room while bleeding profusely. The next moment she seems alive and kicking again. Incidentally, I still don't understand why the bullet wound wasn't treated decently in this hospital immediately. Applying only an emergency bandage and waiting till after the weekend for someone to be present there to close up the wound, doesn't seem a patient-friendly procedure to me.

So as a whole, this isn't a terrible movie, besides the disinterested and sleep-inducing acting of Willis. Can't stress that enough times. The idea of the incriminating buller in Madison's thight is an original idea in itself. The concept of corrupt agents and the one-location idea, where the victim has to fight for her life, can't be called very creative. This (and the resulting storyline) has been used countless times in better movies and television series. Also, the movie isn't really intense or exciting either. Although Texas Battle (heck of an artist name) and Tito Ortiz aren't school examples of actors, due to their impressive appearance and no-nonsense attitude they still provided the necessary entertainment. In short, despite its (limited number of) positive points, "Trauma Center" was already doomed to be offered as an "On Demand" film. If you are an avid Bruce Willis fan then, of course, you should watch this movie. Only I'm afraid he won't rise in many fans their opinion.

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