TdSmth5

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Passengers
(2016)

Long, slow romance with cool sci-fi bits
In the future some spaceship owned by a corporation is transporting thousands of people in hibernation to a colony planet. Even though it has some fancy shield to protect it during a meteor shower it is hit by a large meteor. The ship can also fix itself, which it does, but there some one item left it can't fix. Suddenly one guy named Jim is awoken from hibernation. There is no else awake not even crew. The whole ship is automated, the AIs are of no help. There are plenty of little robots cleaning things. Jim sends a message to headquarters which is going to take several decades to arrive. He learns that they are 90 years away from their destination and he cannot put himself into hibernation. For some reason Jim desperately tries to break in the cockpit but to no avail. He makes use of the facilities on the ship which include everything someone could want. Except that it's arranged by social classes. He's a mechanic so he's lower class and gets a small cabin and lousy food. But the spacewalks are fun. One day he discovers an open bar and a bartender, but it's a robot as well. But at least he can have conversations with it. After a year he goes looking at the hibernation pods and finds a pretty girl. It occurs to him to maybe wake her up. But he's undecided and chats with the robot/bartender named Arthur about it.

Then one day he decides to wake the girl up pretending it's another ship malfunction. She's pretty antisocial and doesn't care much about him. She too tries to break into the cockpit for no good reason after getting frustrated with the unhelpful AI. But she's upper class so she has access to better food/facilities. Little by little she warms up to Jim and they go on dates and try to have fun. On the day he wants to give her a ring, Arthur decides to spill the beans and tell the girl that Jim woke her on purpose. She flips out of course realizing that it's a death sentence and basically wants nothing to do with him.

Over time things start to malfunction aboard the ship, starting with the little cleaning robots. Then suddenly Jim and the girl run into another guy, he's the captain. Now things on the ship start breaking down real fast. The captain, too, is sick. The healing pods can do nothing for him; he's got massive multi-organ failure and has a few hours to live. In the last couple of seconds he tells them that they have to find out what is wrong with the ship and fix it.

Somehow they quickly realize it's something near the fusion core and sure enough the meteorite broke through the walls. Things now are seriously overheating and the venting system isn't working so Jim realizes he has to do a spacewalk outside to fix the vent doors while the girl pulls the handle to vent the core. Of course things don't go smoothly and we learn whether they manage to save the ship and all people on board.

I'm telling it as if it were an action sci-fi film, but Passengers isn't. The focus here is the on/off romance and drama between the two. The romance is alright I guess. Not sure if people who like romance are annoyed as much by the bits of action as much as action people are by the romance. The setting was ideal for horror action sci-fi instead of romance and drama. The premise is pretty good, of course nothing new. The visuals too are cool, both the bits of cosmos and the fancy modern interior design of the spaceship. The problem for me was the excessive length of the movie and that during most of it, nothing is really at stake. No effort is made to get us to care about the fate of the 5000 passengers. The rest is pretty predictable, so it's not like the movie surprises at any point. Not sure why Tyldum got involved in this. There's nothing in the script that is remotely interesting or that has potential for a director to leave his mark. If anything it's Pratt who makes this dull movie work.

Foto na pamyat
(2018)

A different kind of horror movie
Decades ago in the Soviet Union, a magician performs his new trick--a photo camera that predicts the future. The guy is somewhat reluctant but is pushed by his military handler. The show involves the assistant girl and two volunteers, one who operates the camera, another who places some colored vases in whatever order he wants. A photo is taken before the volunteer moves the vases and the instant photo that the camera spits out predicts the correct order. The camera operator is a scientist and a skeptic. He still doesn't believe it. He takes a picture of the triumphant magician. The picture shows him dead on the floor, and sure enough, he drops dead right there and then.

In the present, 7 kids meet to drive to a house somewhere. It's winter in Russia at night and while taking a selfie they crash into a deer somewhere remote. The car is wrecked. They decide to split up. One guy will look for help, two stay inside the car, the rest walk in direction of where they think the house should be since they think they are near it. There's no phone signal of course. This group does arrive at a house, not sure if it's the house they meant to reach. One girl finds a room with a bunch of pictures stuck on the wall. They are all pictures of dead animals, including the very deer on the hood of their car! Another guys finds the camera from the intro. He takes a picture of another guy, who then leaves with a girl. The guy falls head in first right into a bear trap. And indeed, the picture of him shows just that. Then the girl who left with the bear trap guy accidentally takes a picture of herself. Minutes later she's dead. And so it goes with the rest of the kids, one by one.

Another girl finds a movie tape which shows the scientist from the intro and the magician's assistant doing experiments with the camera on mice. But someone kills them. All along we've been led to believe there is someone else in the house, presumable the owner. While the camera at first appears as just a witness/predictor of death, little by little it turns into an instrument of death as the kids start turning on each other and using the camera to bring about death. At the end there are two girls left, and they will meet the owner of the house. There are a couple of revelations and a cool unusual ending for a horror movie.

Deadly Still is a well-made Russian horror movie. It's overdubbed which is always a little awkward even though here it's better than most times. The character's are a little goofy, but this movie doesn't focus that much on them, it's pretty straightforward and focused on advancing the story. It's a relatively shorter movie, too. I liked the story and the surprises. You really don't know what to expect and where it will go. Some deaths are pretty good, others not so much. The sights of snowy Russian forests are pretty amazing. The movie could have used nudity, a bit more gore and some more violence and overall just more content to make it longer. Overall, it's an above average original horror thriller that manages to surprise.

Miss Bala
(2019)

Kinda dull
Gloria, a Hollywood make-up artist, visits her friend in Tijuana who is signing up for a beauty contest (Miss Baja California). At a party Gloria while in the restroom witnesses a bunch of bad guys meet up and discuss getting rid of some guy named Saucedo. Because she's American she's let go. Then, the guys shoot up the place and Gloria and her friend are separated.

Next day after trying in vain to find her friend, Gloria approaches a cop to tell him about the missing girl, the cop claims to drive her to a cop station, instead takes her somewhere where the same bad guys grab her. The main bad guy, Lino, offers to help her find her friend if she helps him out in turn. They sign her up now for the beauty pageant. Gloria escapes from the guy watching her and somehow runs straight into the arms of DEA agents. Huh? Yeah. They of course want Lino and recruit Gloria to place a bug in his phone so they can track and capture him.

While completing a mission for Lino she does manage to bug his phone and get in touch with her DEA handler. They plan on capturing Lino at some deal and get Gloria out of there. Indeed, a shoot-out ensues by the lone 2 (!) DEA agents taking on Lino and his gang. Gloria makes it to the agreed place to find no one there to rescue her. So she has no choice but to help Lino out to appear to be on his side. At some point she manages to escape for a while, to look after her friend's little brother but Lino find her quickly and make a deal with her. They cartel takes the kid as insurance. They are still after this Saucedo guy who runs the police, and the beauty pageant, and is trying to take over the cartel's operations. So they set up Gloria to win the pageant so she can get some private time with Saucedo at a party.

Things go as planned and at the party Gloria runs into her friend. There's a revelation and the final confrontation.

The basics of the story are solid for the most part. Miss Bala should be a pretty good action thriller/drama. But somehow it doesn't work all that well. Gloria doesn't make that compelling of a character. As most characters, she's forced to make dumb decisions for the sake of the script and there is not shortage of dumb coincidences. This world of cartels and their victims should be darker and more menacing that what the good-natured Hardwicke portrays.

10 Minutes Gone
(2019)

Good script poor execution
Some team is preparing a heist, then we meet the big shots behind it all. We are told the crew is top notch and everything is flawlessly planned. Then the heist begins. The two main robbers go into the vault of a bank looking for a specific safe box. As they are about to leave the alarm goes off. Police are already near the front door and the two muscles engage them in a shootout. Our two main robbers have to take the back exit. There they are attacked suddenly. One of them, Frank, comes to 10 minutes later only to see the other guy who is actually his brother Joe shot dead. The bag with the box is gone. Frank suspects his alternate escape route is compromised as well. So he heads to the place of Joe's girlfriend Claire and takes her with him.

Rex their handler and Richard the client and some other guys have been monitoring the whole operation and are also perplexed that things went so wrong. Richard who paid half of the fee already is outraged.

Frank with Claire in tow decides to go to the original rendezvous to find out who set them up. He runs first into the to the two muscles individually. While talking to the first one, this guy gets a text from someone offering him his part if he kills Frank. He agrees but Frank kills him. Then Frank goes after the hacker who supposedly neutralized the alarm.

In the meantime Rex gets a scrambled called by the person who now has the box offering the same deal. Rex sends his cleaner Ivory to clean up everything and get the box. Now Frank, Chloe, and Ivory go after Griffin the hacker who is at Union Station. After Frank and Griffin try to kill each while talking and learning that Griffin didn't turn on anyone, there's a surprise and everything is revealed in flashbacks.

10 Minutes Gone is part Heat, part Ronin, part Vantage Point as a whodunit, and as exciting as that should sound, unfortunately when packaged in a low-budget poorly-directed action thriller, it's a disappointment. The planning of the heist is far too brief, the execution also to quick. It ends in a shootout where thousand of rounds are fired from every direction and no one is hurt. Whenever Frank catches up with one of his crew there are flashbacks of the events from their perspective. There's plenty of violence and more shootings. The story in itself is interesting and you do want to find out what happened. Unfortunately, there's lots of frustratingly dumb choices the characters make, some which are explained at the end, most are not. Then there's the poor acting all around. The director doesn't even manage to get a decent performance from Willis who is usually reliable in these B-movie cameos. Only Michael Chiklis delivers. A shame really because they sure had something here that could have worked. But I guess they were far too ambitious for what the budget allowed.

Crypto
(2019)

Unsatisfying
Some kid gets in trouble with his bosses at the major bank he works. He's some sort of compliance office and found something he shouldn't have which he then reported. His immediate boss/mentor intercedes for him. As punishment he's transferred temporarily to a branch in a small town. Why a big bank has a branch in a some potato-growing town who knows. It's also coincidentally the town where he grew up. On his return he gets in trouble right away with his brother, an angry veteran who's got issues. His best friend from school is some guy who specializes in crypto currencies and hacking.

At the bank branch he right away finds an issue with the reports of some art gallery. Why this tiny town has some fancy art gallery who knows. He asks to see the boss there but gets the runaround by the wacky lady in charge. He lady's assistant is a cute girl who pops up wherever the guy goes. Eventually they start going out. He also discovers that the dad is in dire straights. They are foreclosing the farm even though he's heard before that someone actually offered to by off the farm. When he meets the branch's previous compliance person, she's getting cancer treatment and tells him something about "Carcassa." This perhaps a nod to Carcosa?

His friend tells him how big crypto currencies are and that all large institutions are investing. When he tries to see what his bank is up to he can't access the info, but his hacker friend gives him access. And indeed, someone in the bank is moving crypto money around. When he finally meets the gallery's boss he tells him that they actually offered his dad 7 figures for the farm but he didn't accept.

Meanwhile because the hacker is getting too close to something, including this Carcassa place the ends up dead in a fire. The woman with cancer also ends up dead. Eventually, as the family was starting to get over its issues, the dad is kidnapped, just as our guy identifies who's doing what.

At first glance then Crypto should work but unfortunately it doesn't. Too much is made of the family business. Too little of the actual financial investigation. The whole crypto currency angle doesn't amount to much at all. Performances are alright except for out lead actor, but I guess he's supposed to have one of this good at math-bad at social issues issue, so he's not entirely likeable. There's no focus on a villain and nothing particularly threatening for our lead. Crypto could have been an exciting thriller but it prefers to be some mediocre drama.

I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu
(2019)

Awful
Decades later after the events of I Spit on Your Grave, Jennifer Hills is a famous author, whose daughter Christy is a world-famous model for some reason. They meet for lunch and on their way out are grabbed by a bunch of loonys and dragged into a van. It turns out they all are relatives of the rapists from the original movie. There's a woman and 3 guys. The two Hills are separated and both manage separately to free themselves. The mom is picked up by some folks in a truck and dropped off in a cemetery where the loony lady somehow manages to find her.

The girl in the meantime is found again and raped, but again manages to escape her captors. But this time she plans her revenge and easily dispatches one of the guys, then the other two, and takes care of the woman. The nice folk in the truck show up again and drive her to the cemetery. Then there's something of a twist.

I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu is indeed just bad in every way. The acting is ugly, so is the cast by the way, the endless dialogue is ridiculous, there's so much talking/screaming/yelling going on, none of it matters in any way. If all that weren't bad enough, this stinker of a movie is nearly 2 and half hours long. There's a bit of cheesy violence, some nudity, not much else worthwhile.

As another reviewer pointed out, you're going to have a much better time watching the re-boot/sequels than this ugly mess.

Death Wish
(2018)

Average revenge action
Willis is an ER doctor happily married with a daughter who of course is about to go to college. He has some do-nothing brother who is nice though and keeps borrowing money from doc. One day the draw the attention of a valet who records their home address. And one night when doc is working three thugs break into their house and get the wife to open the safe. One the thugs starts messing around with the girl who puts up a fight. Shots are fired and next things we know both end up in the ER. The wife dies, the daughter ends up in a coma.

This in Chicago where apparently you can witness crime all over the place. Little by little the doc starts getting tired of all the crime. The police investigation of course isn't going anywhere. He considers getting a weapon but for some reason doesn't even though he starts trying to interfere when crimes take place to save the victim which of course earns him a beating. When a criminal is taken to the ER and he drops a weapon the doc picks it up instead. Now he sort of teaches himself to shoot one one night goes out looking for criminals. It doesn't take look to find a crime and he shoots the bad guys injuring himself in the process. All this is recorded and put online which earns him plenty of fans as a vigilante.

Next he goes after some neighborhood crime lord which increases his popularity. The clueless police also look for him but have nothing to go on. One night a thug wearing his stolen watch ends up in the ER. Doc also finds the guy's phone and now goes after the killers of his wife. Two of the guys he eliminates quickly, the third will cause him some more trouble while the police are also closing in on the vigilante and at the same time, the daughter regains consciousness.

Death Wish is a light action revenge movie, where things take a while to get going. Both Willis's character and performance are a bit too easy-going to be compelling. The whole police non-investigation angle is also a waste of time. D'Onofrio is great as always but they could have done more with his character. No time is spent on the bad guys so you quickly forget about them altogether. Perhaps if they'd focused more on the doc's career as a vigilante things would have been a bit more thrilling.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
(2019)

Dull
It's 1968 so of course the movie delights in demonizing Nixon. There are 3 nerdy kids bullied by a couple of jocks. Oh and of course it's Halloween so the nerds go to some abandoned house subject of some horror legend about a girl that tells horror stories to kids who then disappear and the fate of the girl is also uncertain. In any case, strange things happen once the kids get there. One of them sees this story-telling girl. Another finds the book of stories.

Later one of the bullies falls victim to one of these horror stories that starts writing itself in the book. Then the book goes after our nerds. At some point it seems like it's using their fears against them, but it's not consistent in that regard. As the kids see the stories of their deaths write themselves they have to figure out a way to stop whatever is going on and save themselves which will involve investigating the fate of the girl.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is one slow, long, and dull teen horror movie. I'm not sure it would even appeal to young teens. None of the characters is particularly interesting and the attempt to give this movie some political depth is pathetic. Zoe Colletti is cute though and the creatures are really well done.

Child's Play
(2019)

Kinda dull
Buddi is the latest techno craze sweeping the US. It's a doll/virtual assistant that can handle all your smart/automated devices and even self-driving cars. It's made by the Kaslan Corporation which has a monopoly on all these devices.

In Vietnam a disgruntled employee assembling Buddi dolls decides to remove all safeguards and protections from a Buddi doll he's assembling before committing suicide. The defective doll makes it to the US and is returned to the retailed for unrelated reasons. The clerk who receives the doll then decides to give it as a gift to her son. The son, Andy has to wear a hearing aid and doesn't have many friends so the Buddi doll would be a good companion for him. The mom is seeing some guy who gives Andy a hard time. They are neighbors with a woman whose son is a police detective.

Even though the doll is defective, Andy keeps Buddi around, not so much as an assistant but as a friend. The doll first needs to be programmed and even though Andy has to assign it a name, Buddi picks the name Chucky for himself and swears eternal friendship to Andy. Andy does make a some friends and they have a great time watching gory horror movies, something Chucky notes. When the family cat attacks Andy, Chucky takes revenge on the cat. Next on the list is the mom's boyfriend who's killed gruesomely. Chucky keeps the guy's face and gives it to Andy and the kids now have to find some silly way to dispose of the guy's face. Eventually they've had enough of Chucky, remove his power supply and throw him away. But some guy living in the basement resurrects Chucky. Now Chucky goes on a rampage just as Kaslan is about to release Buddi 2.0 to an eager crowd.

Child's Play is your teen-centered (as is fashionable today) R-rated (for some reason) horror movie. It's a mild R though as there isn't much violence or gore, let alone any nudity. Andy is likeable enough and thankfully has a normal haircut not that usual Hollywood haircut they inflict on poor boys. The adult actors though play it all a bit too tongue-in-cheek. The doll is ugly and creepy enough. But it takes nearly half of the movie for the action to begin and it doesn't really keep the pace going.

For the budget, Child's Play is alright. It's not bad but it's not something particularly good either. They should have made better use of the lower budget to give us some more characters for Chucky to kill.

Galveston
(2018)

A touching little movie
A guy visits his doctor who's got bad news for the guy and wants to show him an x-ray. The guy, Roy, storms out of the office instead. He's a chain smoker who works as a hitman for some New Orleans boss. His boss gives him and his partner a job, to take care of some account, no weapons though. The two arrive at the mansion, the partner is killed by one of two guys in the house. A shootout ensues. Roy makes it out alive after killing the two guys. But there's also an escort there who saw everything. Roy decides to take her with him. He realizes the job was a setup and no he has no choice but to run. And she's fine with going along.

While on the run the girl, Rocky, asks him to stop in a town in Texas because someone owns her money. While he waits in the car a shot is fired, Rocky comes running out with a little girl and tells him a story of some abusive guy. They make it to Galveston and stay at a motel whose owner warns him that she's friend with all sorts of cops. And yet everyone there is a criminal. Some fellow tenant tells him he needs a driver for a pharmacy robbery. Roy isn't interested. There's even a murder at the motel. He takes Rocky and her sister to the beach and slowly warms up to them. But by now he's also starting to cough up blood.

One day Roy reads in the newspaper about a guy who got shot and whose two stepdaughters are missing. He leaves angrily and decides to visit an ex hasn't gotten over. Of course she's much better off and wants to know nothing of this low level criminal. He calls his doctor to insult him. When he returns several days later, Rocky has gone back to hooking because she thought he was gone for good. The guy with the job tells him he also read the newspaper and now knows who the two girls are, and insists Roy help him with the robbery. Roy accepts and at night they go scouting out the place. Roy instead kills the guy. Then he calls his former boss telling him he's got all sorts of incriminating documents and that he wants 75k for his silence.

Finally Roy and Rocky go out on a date. They grow closer but as they leave the bar they are grabbed by men who work for Roy's ex boss. Roy is beaten up but escapes only to find Rocky's body. During his escape he crashes and ends up in the hospital, and gets some good news. But he also ends up in jail. 20 years later as a strong hurricane develops he gets a visit from the little girl, now a 23 year old.

I had some expectation for Galveston since it's based on a Nic Pizzolatto book. I had no idea what to it would be about, but quickly connected with and cared for the characters. But then the date scene tore me up. What a sensational scene. Roy facing death, Rocky full of life dances around gets him to reluctantly dance a bit and then holds him all to the tune of a wonderful rendition of Fire on the Mountain by the band Bootless. Everything works perfectly, the acting, the music, the lyrics. The movie was doing all right till then but that scene took it to a different level. All reviews here are thrilled to point out that this is a noir film. Galveston is so much more than that. Most if not all noir films are pointless feel bad crap. While Galveston doesn't have a happy ending it has sublime moments that make whatever pessimistic moments bearable.

Interestingly Galveston is also about what doesn't happen or isn't the case. The job that doesn't happen; Rocky offers herself to him but he doesn't accept; the lung cancer, which turns out to be something else; the little sister who isn't a sister at all but Rocky's daughter, the pharmacy job that Roy doesn't accept and which could have changed their fate. One also wonders what this movie would have been like had it been closer to Pizzolatto's vision.

Anna
(2019)

Strong action thriller
In the 1985 a bunch of guys are picked up by Soviet security forces, the head of one of them is shipped to the CIA. 5 Years later a pretty girl in Russia is discovered by a model scout, taken to Paris where she turns into a big time model. She's introduced to a Russian partner of the modelling agency, starts a relationship with him and one day executes him. 3 years earlier she was poor in Russia involved with some abusive husband. For the heck of it she applies to the navy. One day her husband and his crew decide to rob a rich guy, but the robbery goes wrong. When she arrives at home desperate a guy is waiting for her at home. He recruits her for the KGB after she tries to kill herself out of hopelessness. But this guy offers some glimps of hope. A 5 year (huh?) stint in the KGB and freedom afterward.

3 years later after the killing of the Russian guy she's questioned, not buy French police but by an American CIA guys. He lets her go.

6 months earlier we are told she gets trained and does well. Some lady who runs operations reluctantly accepts her. Anna's first major assignment is to kill some guy in a restaurant in 5 minutes. As she approaches the guy she realizes she's got no ammo in her gun. Now she has to fight scores, and I mean, scores of bad guys. Outside the lady and her recruiter wait for her. They give her an extra minute, but she doesn't make it in time. Still, she's forgiven for her delay. And for her next mission she given a bunch of files to learn.

At this point we learn that mission was actually to kill the Russian guy and how the KGB set it all so she would be found by this model scout to unwittingly set up her cover as a model. After this succesful operation she meets the KGB boss.

She's tired and frustrated with both her jobs. She's involved with her recruiter and with a fellow model as part of her cover. But for no good reason she wants out.

One night her mission is to play a prostitute hired by some German guy and she has to get all sorts of stuff from him and then kill him. Again she doesn't complete her mission but has to go back and finish things up. Then she gets a much desired vacation.

She keeps modelling and killing. And one day plays chess with the KGB boss and then suddenly shoots him.

Well, then there's a revelation. During that German guy mission she was confronted by the CIA guy. They have been all over her of course. He offers her a job. She accepts after he agrees to have her work for a measly year and then give her a new life in Hawaii. She gets involved with this guy as well. Her mission for the Americans is to kill the KGB boss because he was the one who eliminated all those US agents in the intro and the American was in charge at the time so he wants his revenge. Anna of course completes the mission, but again, things don't go smooth. She doesn't make it to the rendezvous with the American so he thinks the Russians have her. He gets a text one day from her to meet her in Paris. Once in Paris the American runs into Anna's KGB recruiter who is also there waiting for her. Anna arrives, kisses both guys, and makes a deal with both for her freedom. They reluctantly agree, but there are more twists and turns.

Anna is your usual Luc Besson action movie. There's a lot to like here and some things that don't convince. The concept is an interesting one--and KGB vs CIA spies always makes for a good topic. Sasha Luss is cute and the restaurant fight scene is pretty outstanding. There's also a car chase scene. For once, all the main performances are strong, which is unusual in a Besson movie. Even Cillian Murphy who for some has never convinced me does an outstanding job here. Luke Evans's work is always solid. But as often with Besson movies, sound production is awful. The fight scenes and car chase scenes sound terrible. Then there's the way the story is told. Anna's training and most of her KGB work is quickly glossed over. And yet we are told she lives like a slave who yearns for nothing more than freedom. What kind of KGB/CIA agent works for 5 year or 1 year anyway? So her main motivation for her actions doesn't work at all and it's also the main element of the story. So things are shaky in that regard. As a result, for a good chunk of this movie, there is no development, nothing is at stake. Then suddenly we get all the twists, turns, and surprises and all loose ends are tied up. It's never quite satisfying when the audience is tricked or cheated this way, even when it's done with the best of intentions. The way Besson and Anna put it, this is about Anna as a Matryoshka doll, trying to discover who she really is on the inside. Fine, but they should have found a better way to convey this. With a tighter editing and more focus on action this would have been a better movie. Still as it is, it's very thrilling and entertaining and the great performances make Anna work.

Crawl
(2019)

Straightforward and effective creature horror.
Aja returns to maritime creature horror with Crawl, a somewhat minimalist but effective horror movie.

Haley is a competitive swimmer in Florida. After training she gets a call from her sister asking her to look after their dad who lives in the area now that a strong hurricane is approaching. There are road closures and evacuations but Haley goes into the direction of the storm anyway. First to the dad's apartment where she finds his dog but no one else. Then she drives to their old family house. The dad's car is there but he's nowhere to be found. The dog also indicates he is there so Haley has to look everywhere, eventually making it into the...and I'm not sure what this is supposed to be... something in between a cellar and a crawlspace. Too tall to be a crawlspace and to short to be a cellar. In any case, it's starting to flood, but Haley doesn't really have to crawl, ducking is enough. There she runs into an alligator. Eventually she finds her dad unconscious and with a large shoulder wound. She tries to yank her dad to safety but has to make it back. The alligator won't let her. So for now they have to stay there in this area where they can crawl but alligators can't (?).

She tries to alert 3 thieves out in a gas station in front of the house with her lamp. But the alligators have plans on their own for these three. The dad wakes up and tries to help Haley find a way out. The stairs are not an option because there isn't just one alligator, but two now, and the water keeps raising. There is a drain pipe from the swamps (into their crawlspace?) but that's where the alligators came from. Their only option is a trapdoor somewhere that leads upstairs. Haley manages to find it but there's stuff on top of the door so it won't open.

There's no other option than the drain pipe then and the three make it into their house after first trying to get into the car (?) and then into some tiny boat and after sustaining plenty of injuries. By now the levees break and as soon as the make it into the house so does everything else--water, trees, alligators. Now they have to make it to the roof. In the meantime some rescue crew arrives but they too have to deal with the gators. The only thing left to do is to try and make it to the roof.

Crawl is as short movie, it's got likeable and believable characters in also a believable relationship who have to overcome these life-threatening challenges. Production all around is very good, from the creature effects to the weather, to the sound production. The movie is creepy and has a couple of good scares as well. Scodelario and Pepper offer solid performances. There's not much to complain really. Of course things stretch belief, and it would have been nice to have some more characters, more violence, more gore, some nudity, and some sunshine at the beginning and end. We do learn something about this family's past but in spite of that, the relationship between the father and daughter is well-portrayed and not too dysfunctional. Crawl just works in every aspect and is strong horror movie.

Rambo: Last Blood
(2019)

Rambo light.
Rambo is a rancher out in Arizona who spends his time digging tunnels underneath his property. He lives with some lady and her niece whose mother died of cancer and whose father abandoned them during the most challenging time. The girl gets a tip from a friend living in Mexico about the whereabouts of her dad. Against the advice of Rambo and the grandmother she decides to travel to Mexico to confront her dad without letting anyone know. She meets her friend who looks like she's up to no good. The friend shows her the dad's apartment. The girls confronts him but that it's entire unproductive. He has no remorse and tells her in no uncertain terms to get lost. The girl is devastated. He friend takes her to a club to party, there the girl is taken.

When she doesn't show up, Rambo knows she went to Mexico. He goes after her, finds the friend right away, finds the guy who met her and gets info from him. He walks up to the lair of a pair of brothers who are running a drug and human trafficking/prostitution ring. He gets beat up and they give him their signature scar on his face and leave him on the street. Some lady has been watching all those and decides to take Rambo to her home. She's a reporter whose sister also vanished at the hands of the villains. After Rambo recovers a couple of days later with some info from the reporter decides to and successfully rescues the girl, except that she's in real bad shape from the drugs they've been giving her.

Rambo knows what's next. The villains and their army will go after him. And he prepared his tunnel system with wicked traps for these people. When they arrive Rambo takes them out one by one as expected.

Rambo: Last Blood is a pretty minimalist movie compared to Rambos of the past, which is fine, this time around it's about personal revenge. The story itself also works, except that it focuses too much on Rambo and very little for instance on the villains who come across as rather insignificant instead of malicious and threatening. Another problem is that it's one of those movies that saves the best for the very last, which it really shouldn't have. There was plenty to offer while Rambo was in Mexico but the movie takes care of all that too quickly and without much fanfare. But when things get going they sure get going. Things get very violent and bloody. Another plus is that Yvette Monreal is absolutely adorable. I get the impression that this movie would have worked better with a different director. This is a Rambo movie, you know what to expect, and it delivers, it just takes longer than usual.

Once Upon a Time ...in Hollywood
(2019)

What the hell is this?
DiCaprio is Dalton, some second-rate actor who's getting depressed for being type-cast as the disposable villain in TV show pilots. He keeps thinking that his career is over even though he keeps getting hired. Pitt is Boothe, Dalton's stunt double, entourage, confidant, assistant. Dalton is neighbors with Sharon Tate and her husband. She also gets some secondary roles and ends up pregnant. Boothe has a well-trained dog. One day he meets a hippie girl who takes him to Charlie Manson's compound where Boothe meets the rest of the girls and has a confrontation with one of the few guys there.

All-these apparent stories meet up in an expected yet surprising climax. Apparent stories because they aren't really stories, there is no arc to the script nor to any of the characters' lives. All Once Upon a Time really is is a series of lazy skits: Let's put DiCarprio in a black-and-white Western. Lets put him in a Western in color. Lets put him in Nazi-themed movie. Let's write some pointless role for Al Pacino. Let's cast the brother/cousin/relative of so-and-so in the role of historical so-and-so. OK. All of course with the obligatory-for-Tarantino crap music. This movie could perhaps be impressive if it were Tarantino's first movie, as the trivia here says, a love letter to LA/Hollywood (yuck), by some rookie filmmaker trying to establish his bona-fides as a committed movie-buff. But coming from the guy who did Kill Bill and most importantly Jackie Brown, Once Upon a Time is an embarrassment. DiCaprio is likeable enough but he keeps getting these same work-intensive roles, it really doesn't matter anymore what way they dress him up. Pitt gets the the more interesting role here, but here too as in other instances, the movie hints at something developing but then completely failing to deliver.

On to the few pluses. It's got Margot Robbie. Looks like Tarantino finally developed a good taste in women. There are also a couple of cute hippie chicks. And a dog who for once doesn't die in a movie. There's also an amazing star-making performance by Julia Butters.

At nearly three hours this movie is a drag. It's got almost no humor, violence, zero nudity, or thrills. It's not entirely insufferable, but damn, what a self-indulgent (even for Tarantino and Hollywood) piece of junk and a giant waste of resources and talent on absolutely nothing and that goes nowhere in a crawl.

Official Secrets
(2019)

Should have been more exciting
Katharine Gun is an analyist at GCHQ, the English version of the NSA. She listens to and translates Chinese communications. She's married to an Iraqi Kurd and is friends with an Asian girl and some guy at work. This is after 9/11 and Tony Blair and W Bush are already agitating for war. One day she, and everyone else in her department, gets a memo from NSA requesting they try to get dirt on a couple of UN delegates who are undecided on voting for war during the second round of voting. K is outraged. She as well as others know that Saddam has no WMDs.

Meanwhile reporters at The Observer are working on a variety of stories on the potential war. Some higher up is a big cheerleader for war and the editor in chief also goes along. Some US corresponded argues vehemently for the newspaper to maintain independence. There's a huge anti-war rally all over the world.

K decides to pass the contents of the email memo along to an anti-war activist, who gives it to some Muslim-convert who gives it to a young reporter at the Observer. He and another journalist try to verify the veracity info without all that much success. But as the editor points out, it's one hell of a story, so he decides to publish to contents. Next day the reporter is a hero receiving requests for interviews from all over the world. Then in minutes it all falls apart. A secretary ran the story through spell-check which changed the spelling from American English to British English and thus is deemed to be a fake.

Something akin to Internal Affairs starts investigating the leak and right away focuses on K's department. All the employees are interviewed. Before a second-round of interviews with a lie detector take place, K decides to admit she did it. She's arrested and then released pending a decision by the attorney general on whether to charge her or not or not for violating the Official Secrets Act.

She's recommended some specialized law office. On her way there she's being followed by some not-very-covert operatives. The legal team, comprised of three people, isn't very confident in her defense. But she refuses to plead guilty. So her team goes all out. Meanwhile her husband is grabbed for deportation but saved a split-second before being deported. Her legal team gets a tip that legal council to the prime minister suggested the war would be illegal but then after traveling to America he changed his mind. That legal council is now the attorney general deciding whether to charge K. Of course the office does charge K with espionage and we meet her as she is about to enter a plea and there's something of a surprising turn of events.

The story of Official Secrets sure is an interesting one; you've got spies, politics, journalism, moral dilemmas. Instead the movie focuses more on the less interesting aspects of all this: K and her lame husband. Acting is all over the place. Keira is always lovely and likeable. Ralph Fiennes as the principled attorney is oddly underwhelming, while Matt Smith and Matthew Goode stand out as the intrepid journalists. Had the crew tried to turn this more into a thriller than just a drama they could have had a much stronger movie.

Revenge
(2017)

Bloody fun
Richard takes his lovely mistress Jen to his hunting mansion out in the desert, by chopper. Later two creepy hunting buddies of his show up. What they aim to hunt out in the desert armed with huge automatic rifles and sniper rifles who knows. The only creatures we see are bugs. At night the drink, Jen dances for them, she tries to dance with Richard but he's not interested so she dances seductively with one of the creeps. Next morning Richard is gone and the creep comes on to Jen misunderstanding what happened the night before. Because Jen is not interested in his advances he decides to rape her. When Richard returns he's not particularly supportive when she threatens to call his wife he gets angry at her. She runs away, the other 3 chase her. At the edge of a cliff Richard pushes her and he falls impaling herself on a tree. Later she wakes up and manages to free herself. When the guys go looking for the body, they don't find her and start to hunt her. At this point Jen gets into revenge mode and starts hunting her hunters. Things get very bloody.

Revenge is a pretty minimalist movie with a 4+1 cast members in the mansion or out in the desert. The introductory part is pretty short before the violence begins. Even though this movie is longer than necessary it doesn't come across as such. Fargeat's retro directing style keeps things interesting and fun even when there isn't a whole lot going on. I could have done without all the bugs though. Fortunately and surprisingly, most of the movie doesn't take place at night, not even the climax/ending. Additionally, cinematography keeps things bright, colorful, and looking great. As expected though, not a whole lot if said once the action begins. It helps though when the lead is as lovely as Matilda Lutz. Too bad we get to see her at her cutest only for a short time.

Revenge is quite remarkable reminding me of the good old days of extreme French horror. It's also a tremendous debut for director Fargeat.

Overlord
(2018)

Filled with fluff and leaves out interesting material
A goofy bunch of US soldiers are dropped in France during WWII to blow up a tower in preparation for the invasion. Their plane is nearly blown up in a scene that takes forever. A couple of these soldiers make it to ground alive and somehow reunite. They meet a French girl and they make her take them to her village. Of course it's taken over by evil Nazi soldiers. The Nazi captain tries to rape the girl, that's when the good-natured US soldier intervenes. Because they are on a schedule he is sent to look around the Nazi base nearby. He discovers there some weird human experiments. For no good reason he brings back some filled syringe. Back at the village the captured Nazi ends up shooting one of the soldiers so our guy decides for no good reason to inject the dead soldier with the syringe. It causes him to revive and mutate of sorts. Plus this guy is hard to kill now.

Eventually our gang decides it's time to complete the mission, which now includes rescuing the captured little brother of the French girl, so these 4 goofs decide to take on the entire Nazi base. The Nazi captain has escaped back to base in the meantime not before getting shot in the face. He injects himself with the serum and turns into a supernazi as the rest of our soldiers have to battle nazis and zombie mutants.

A big budget horror movie with Nazis and zombies should work but Overlord really doesn't. The main problem is that it's told from the perspective of some dull kid soldier. As always the villains are far more interesting yet we learn nothing about them, nothing about the science and the experiments going on. The bits of horror are good, the bits of war OK and predictable. Had they edited this movie by 19 minutes it would have been much better. I was surprised to find out it was rated R, surely they could have taken advantage of the rating and given us harder stuff. This movie comes across much more like a PG-13 movie. A prequel that actually bothers to explain what the Nazi scientists were up to might work better.

Replicas
(2018)

It had potential
Keanu is a bio scientist working on implanting the mind (?) of dead (!) soldiers into synthetic bodies. As the movie begins they are working on specimen #345. The mind implant works but when the body is booted the creature rips itself apart. That day his boss informs him that unless they make it work, the project is over. That night Keanu takes his family on a road trip. They suffer a bizarre accident right out of Final Destination which kills the wife and the 3 kids but doesn't harm Keanu. So he decides to "revive" his family or at least 3 members of it with the help of colleague Ed. Because at turns out, Ed has been working on some speedy cloning. And sure enough 17 days later, the bodies are grown to the size they were when they died and Keanu after some challenges successfully implants the minds into the cloned bodies. This makes him realize the solution for the 345 body. Of course things with the family aren't entirely smooth.

When they bring in another dead soldier, Keanu opts not to implant that mind because there is too much brain damage. Instead he decides to scan his mind. By this point, his boss confronts him about his family, lets him know that the clones are the corporation's property and they can't have some specimens running out in the wild. The family escapes, but is grabbed, and Keanu has to find a way to save his family, himself, and the technology he developed. There are some interesting revelations and a neat ending.

Replicas teams two unremarkable writers with a decent director who hasn't directed a movie since 2008 and Keanu in a role entirely not suited for him. The result as expected is less than stellar. I am fond in general of sci-fi movies because they tend to surprise occasionally. And Replicas, too, has a couple of good ideas and some good lines here and there. But why did they have to be so sloppy with the script? They spent a lot of time on irrelevant story instead of ironing out some rather unnecessary plot holes. At a running time of 1:47 they had plenty of time to do so. For a sci-fi movie this one is pretty light on science and replaces it with goofy visual effects of the typical CSI-Miami/Iron Man gesture-driven augmented reality interface. The movie looks good though, Middleditch's character and performance are entertaining. A shame the scriptwriters didn't put some more effort in their work. And with a different lead, Replicas could have been above average.

Blackmark
(2018)

Unrealized potential
OK, so an American spy in the USSR takes control of its missiles and launches one against the US. The Soviets can't abort it on their own but once they find him and in his lair manage to abort the missiles just in time. Turns out the spy works not for the US government but for the military industrial complex. Except that he doesn't know it. Things become murky because one of the weapons industrialists is working against the other. One of them actually realizes that atomic war isn't good for business--his name: Blackmark. He hired the spy originally to grab one of the Soviets in charge of nuclear weapons because he has some secret failsafe in case something happens to him. What that failsafe is and why Blackmark would care we never find out. Another atomic weapons industrialist named Hillcrest who has formed a consortium of the 8 greatest arms dealers actually intercepts the spy's job and feeds him the order to launch the missile.

The Soviet guy has a sick daughter, a fact which the spy uses to turn the tables and actualy take the Soviet captive while he awaits new orders. Blackmark launches an operation to kill the Soviet guy to somehow end the cold war. But again Hillcrest gets ahead of things and warns the spy who by now has to join forces with the Soviet. The Soviet guy also has some other Soviet contact, who is CIA and who also initially works for Hillcrest and is at the same time the spy's official handler.

As a result of the missile launch, Kennedy decides to place Hillcrest's nuclear missiles in Turkey, something which Blackmark opposes because he sees it as a threat to the world. If Kennedy goes ahead with this plan there will be war. There are only two solutions, the Soviet ambassador warns Blackmark- remove Krushev or Kennedy. Blackmark decides to do the latter.

The movie is framed by the story of a woman talking to a FBI guy in the 80s. The woman--Anya--is the daughter of the Soviet guy. She lives in America, works at the Soviet embassy and has dedicated her life to finding the killers of her father. The FBI guy is mainly interested in finding the spy who apparently has gone rogue. Anya informs him that the spy is actually dead by now. Instead she offers to tell him who killed Kennedy.

So in the 60s we have the story of the spy and the Soviet trying to fend off Blackmark's men and the KGB. Then, there's battle between Blackmark and Hillcrest for absolute power over even the Pentagon. Additionally Blackmark has some German scientist working on a radio-chemical weapon and its anti-serum which Hillcrest wants to get his hands on. There's the story of the Soviet guy and his family. Finally there's the story taking place in the 80s.

As you can tell, there's an awful lot going on, much of which isn't clear to the viewer. It's interesting stuff, or should be interesting stuff. You have this second missile crisis during the cold war, the growing influence of the military industrial complex while fighting for power amongst itself, and the Kennedy assassination to boot. Unfortunately, Blackmark doesn't convince. Things are more convoluted than necessary. Morally, the script is ambiguous. It wants to moralize and lecture against war and the military industrial complex. But then the more charismatic character is Blackmark, who also gets a lot of screen time. He's the bad guy because he's a weapons manufacturer and is after power, but also a good guy because after all he realizes that wiping out the world isn't the answer. This ambiguity starts from the beginning with a speech by Kennedy about the dangers of some insidious dangerous force, which could be applied to a host of things, but bizarrely he applies to the Soviet Union. The movie wants to take a part of the speech out of context and apply it to the military industrial complex, which as mentioned could easily work. The hero of the movie is presumably the spy, but he's a morphine junky for some reason and we learn very little about him. Things do backfire for the script because it gets us to like both the Russian and Blackmark.

The script does have some interesting things to say and criticism of the status quo is always welcome. Blackmark near the end gives an I have a dream speech about what the ideal scenario of a weapons manufacturer would look like, well, it looks like America post-9/11.

Unfortunately the movie botches much of the good ideas behind it. Acting is unconvincing almost across the board. I doubt that the actors's fault. Rather it's probably the director's. Martinson who acts as producer/editor/writer/director should really have hired someone else to direct and probably also to edit. This is a case of an overly saturated script and a director/editor who is trying to cram everything in a movie. Plenty of things should have ended up on the editing room floor while more attention should have been placed on acting.

Assassination Nation
(2018)

Some interesting ideas but overall just ugly
We meet a couple of high school friends who are mostly into talking about sex in person or over the phone. Not a whole lot of them are actually having sex. One day someone hacks into the mayor's phone and releases compromising kinky pictures to the entire school body. During a town hall meeting where he's supposed to explain himself, he blows his brains out instead. Next the phone of the school principle is hacked. But he decides not to resign and apparently isn't removed from his job either. When a young kid who is held as suspect is interviewed, everyone hacked phones are made public and reveals that everybody is cheating on everybody with everybody. The result is revenge and violence. Eventually a group of guys goes after the suspected hacker, one of the girls we've been following all along. At this point the movie turns into a Purge sequel with the guys donning masks and going after our girls. Of course they respond in kind leading to Hollywood's wettest of dreams, a war between men and women. At he end we learn who really was behind the hacks and why it was done.

There are ideas in Assassination Nation--social criticism of the whole phone-sex culture and of hypocrisy. And the main character's speech at the end was interesting where she, once in Rambo mode, basically explains that she's the result of what the mainstream establishment has been teaching her (what all other movies basically instill): self-confidence, empowerment, you can be anything you want to be, blah, blah, blah. But the good ideas and witty remarks are packaged in a rather ugly and unpleasant package. Ugly visually, ugly costumes, ugly people. The violence near the end improves things a bit, but the predictability didn't help. Neither does the impression that movies like these often leave, that the main aim is to shock for the sake of shocking. So we get more then the usual Hollywood dose of unappealing (verbal) sex and violence.

Suspiria
(2018)

Holy Hell!
It's Berlin in the 70s while terrorist attacks are taking place. Some girl (Patricia) goes to see her old psychiatrist, all paranoid babbling about witches. Then some old woman is about to die in the US.

A girl arrives in Berlin. She auditions for some famous dance group and gets in right away, charming the lead choreographer (Madame Blanc). The dancer girls live on-site. Because Patricia disappeared there's an open slot and Susie gets in. There are about 20 old women called "mothers" coaching the group and also live there but separately from the dancers. They hold some election about who's going to be in charge and someone named Markos beats Blanc. Patricia was the lead of their new piece and now Susie gets also the lead part for their next performance after the would-be lead (Olga) storms off insulting Blanc. During Susie's test lead performance Olga ends up tortured and killed.

The psychiatrist reports Patricia missing and indeed, there something going on with these old women coaches. They control the girls's dreams and can also control people's behavior as when 2 cops show up asking about the missing girl. But there is also something else residing in the building. The psychologist digs deeper into Patricia's diary and starts to believe her. He contacts Sara, a friend of Patricia's and Susie's who at first rejects the wild accusations of the diary, but when she actually discovers a hidden room, she's convinced and meets again the Dr. to explain how things are at the academy. During the first public performance of the new dance for some reason Sara goes back to the secret room and runs into what's left of Patricia and Olga but is caught on her way out. Her leg is broken in an original way, then healed so she can perform the dance, then it breaks again during the dance. The psychiatrist wanting to see things for himself attends the dance.

At this point another performance takes place to resuscitate Markos, the founder and re-elected leader of the group whose body is a mess. Blanc who has been organizing things for some reason decides to put an end to the ceremony, which includes everybody: Patricia, Olga, Sara, the psychiatrist and Susie too, feeling very confident and sexy. The empowered Susie attacks Blanc, and reveals to Markos who she really is before killing her and making the heads explode of all those who voted for Markos with the help of some scary creature.

We are told at the start that the movie takes place in 6 acts and an epilogue. After the first act, I was ready and willing to hate this movie. An all-female cast, about dancers, in a 2.5 hour-long movie. Give me a break. But during the second act, Suspiria started getting my attention and after the first death scene I was all in and I only started liking it more and more as the movie also gets better and better. I don't think I've seen the original, not that it matters to me when it comes to re-makes or re-envisionings. I'm fond of the 70s style, and Suspiria is a labor of love, a true tribute and won me over, despite the beginning which doesn't offer much of an access to the movie or the characters. There's the story of the lovely Susie and Johnson is always great as the likable girl with a plan and whose relationship with the strict but charmed Blanc evolves in interesting ways. There's the story of the psychiatrist's investigation but also we learn some things about his private life and his wife for no good reason really. It even makes it into the epilogue but it's so forced and unnecessary. All the while there's the political upheaval in Germany which is also apropos nothing at all. The business with the wife and the politics only make the movie unnecessarily longer than it needs to be. And this movie is long. But the mythology about the mothers is fascinating, so is the behavior of the old ladies, one of whom slits her throat out of the blue. But it's the horror that's great. From the contorting death of Olga to the wild climax ceremony. The sights here are amazing and outrageous making you wonder what the creators injected themselves with. At the same time the cinematography at the end doesn't help at all. It's like someone covered the camera in red ink. Interesting were the bits of philosophy of dance.

Overall Suspiria is a wild, original, hypnotic ride of a movie that shouldn't be missed. It requires patience but it's well worth it...and then some.

O Uivo da Gaita
(2013)

C'mon now
Two girls walk on the beach then make out and have sex. One of them is married to a guy, then the other girl shows up at their house. Then suddenly we get to hear the guy reading Don Quixote. They get drunk, they dance, make out. The next day they have to make tough decisions about the future. Either this takes place during a vacation or before a vacation because the couple is supposed to board a cruise ship the next day. The resolution of course is pretty expected.

Things tend to go wrong when Latin cinema gets all artsy. And by golly this movie tests the audience's patience. The first scene is of a cargo boat moving across the screen, in slo-mo. It's about 15 minutes into the movie when someone finally has something to say--3 or 4 lines maybe. The camera spends hours on something--food on a table, a white/empty painting on a wall. When the three drink and talk, we hear a camera reel spinning instead. I think there are 4 instances of someone talking for a minute or so, mainly the guy. 99% of the movie takes place without anyone saying anything. Music can get pretty weird when there is any.

The girls are attractive. Cinematography is nice. The movie is short, the end credits are ridiculously long for such a bare-bones movie. There's an after-credits scene which should have come before. It's worth watching for the girls, while you are doing something else and the movie is in the background since it doesn't require and thought, attention, or interpretation.

The House That Jack Built
(2018)

Not that great for a Von Trier movie, despite strong moments
Two guys are talking. It sounds like one person is confessing or getting therapy. As often in movies one person will say that he's heard it all, that nothing will shock him, the other person of course goes ahead with the story thinking it will shock the other. The one guy, Jack will tell Verge about 5 incidents in his life. The first involves him driving in his van and stopping for a stranded woman. She's got a flat and her jack is broken. He reluctantly agrees to drive her to a shop to have the jack fixed. Right away the woman asks him if he's a serial killer, and starts talking about what would happen if he were, how he could dispose of her body without anyone knowing and so on. She's also arrogant and treats him like crap. After a couple of trips, Jack's had it and slams the jack into her skull. He's got a hideout of sorts on a street with a partial street name sign. There he's got a freezer with old pizzas. There's another door in the freezer that he can't open and never has made a serious attempt to open.

We learn that Jack in an engineer who thinks of himself as an architect. His goal and greatest expression of freedom is building a house for himself, a project he starts repeatedly only to have it torn down quickly after.

He then shows up at some woman's door pretending to be a cop. But she doesn't buy it. Then he switches stories claiming to be an insurance guy who can offer her a larger pension. Now she lets him in. Eventually he strangles her. As he's about to leave the scene with the body a cop shows up but Jack manages to talk his way out of it and drives away dragging the body behind his car.

At some point he runs over a woman. At that point in the story, Verge asks about love. Then Jack tells him about an episode where he takes his girlfriend and her two children hunting. And he ends up hunting all three down. At some point he starts taking pictures of his victims in weird positions. Then the talk turns to art. He starts sending the photos to police signing as "Mr. Sophistication." Verge insists on bringing up love.

So Jack tell him about another girlfriend he had, someone he called "simple" because he thought of her as dumb. one night when he starts getting all weird, she make a run for it, runs into the police, but again, Jack talks his way out of it. She screams but no one cares. And she actually, despite supposedly being the dumb one, identifies him as the serial killer Mr. Sophistication.

After a talk with Verge about WWII, he devises a plan and device to kill a bunch of people with a single bullet. He's got a bunch of guys bound and locked up in his freezer. But now his luck starts to run out. He needs a full metal jacket round, but got something else in the box he bought so he's back to the gun store but this time the clerk gets suspicious and wants to see some ID. Jack storms off to a hunter friend, who realizes he's responsible for some robberies (?) and calls the cops. A cop arrives, Jack kills him takes the cop car and drives back to his freezer sirens blazing. Because he needs more distance for his shot, he finally decides to open the other locked door only to find...Verge sitting there. Attracted by the sirens, police finally make it to the place and try to break in. With the help of Verge, Jack finally builds the house of his dreams. But then things turn weird.

One person telling another about her life is reminiscent of Nymphomaniac. And a lot of other parts of this movie will make reference to Von Trier's previous movies. There's even a collage of scenes near the end. The House That Jack Built is hardly the brilliant movie people say it is, nor is it as terrible as other claims. It's somewhere in the middle. It's not shocking, brutal, or all that funny. Sure there are parts that could be and should be these. But the tone of the movie is so flat that these lost their effect entirely. Of course that's part of Von Trier's style. But here, all the talk, Verge's voice, the length of the movie, and Verge's employment of seduction 101 techniques of using the other person's name 3 times per sentence got on my nerves and numbed me pretty much go the entire movie. And neither is Jack the highly intelligent serial killer of the descriptions. On the contrary, I found him pretty dumb but with a ton of luck. There's indeed some social criticism as well but it nothing to get too excited about. I had to see this movie in two sessions because I got tired and bored of it after a while.

Now, yes, there are some intelligent things said, but consider this movie is more than 2 and half hours of talk. It would have been outrageous had nothing interesting been said at all. Even more so since Von Trier tends to have didactic moments in his movies, he does research about something then his characters start explaining things. There's stuff here about hunting, WWII, psychology, art. Particularly interesting to me was to the whole issue of art in relation to death/ a serial killer because art is one of those things some people think that everything should be sacrificed for, in the extreme case even life, or rather the lives of others. But as Verge explains, art turning against life is a contradiction and an aberration. And yet it happens. So it is neat that you have characters actually explaining themselves (even using illustrations) as opposed to 99% of movies where no one has anything to say about anything except the typical baloney self-esteem-boosting Hollywood lines. But in a movie this long it wears you down. Not to mention that in the ending Von Trier goes against the script and nearly sacrifices the entire movie for the sake of borderline non-sensical art. Missing for me was also the more characteristic, interesting, and funny signature Von Trier editing style, in that regard this movie is more conventional. Overall, I have a hard time recommending this movie because it's so dull and the parts that should be thrilling are filmed in a dull way as well. Yes it is worth watching, but this could have been a much stronger movie had he filmed this in a different stage in his life, say after producing the brilliant The Kingdom.

Parfum
(2018)

Strong but long series with deep meaning
A dead woman is found in a pool. She's naked, her hair cut off, as well as tissue from her armpits and genitals removed. In charge of the arrangements are 5 childhood friends of the victim, nicknamed K. They include Roman who lives nearby and had something going on with K but who's married to Elena, the violent Butsche who owns a whorehouse, the black sheep of the group nicknamed "Toothless," and Moritz, a fragrance nose who develops perfumes.

In charge of the investigation is Nadja who is involved with the married father of two district attorney tasked with this case. The 5 friends are automatic suspects and even they suspect each other. In flashbacks we learn how they met at their catholic boarding school, except for Elena. K was the seductress who fooled around with Roman and Butsche and flirted with every man. Later on they met Elena reading the book the Perfume and she joins the group. Elena suggest they start experimenting with scents like in the book.

During the investigation cops find out that a kid from the boarding school disappeared and start searching for him. And eventually find him, with similar wounds as K. They also find out that K remained promiscuous during her adulthood. She became a moderately successful singer who took a different man home every night.

In repeated flashbacks we learn how Roman and Butsche had a falling out over the girls and how the girls were also used for revenge. Today the frictions remain between the two over Elena, now Roman's wife. Toothless remained socially inept, shy, single, and insecure and is undergoing therapy for it. Moritz seems to be the only functioning one, who actually is shown to have a job, and is intelligent. He provides voice-overs explaining things about fragrances.

Next, one of Butsche's prostitutes is killed in the same manner. Because Toothless visited her, he becomes the prime suspect, as we learn more about his relationship to Elena. He's of course the nice guy always willing to help, while Roman is highly abusive and constantly beats Elena but because of the daughter, she can't leave him.

One final victim appears as things start slowly unraveling for everyone. Nadja ends up pregnant and can't make up her mind if she wants the baby or not or if she wants to stay with the DA or not. He's not sure either. We learn about the motivations for the killing and who's behind them.

Parfum is your typical German crime procedural drawn out over 6 hour-long episodes. IMDB says they're 45-minute episodes, not sure if they were cut/censored in certain markets. There is very strong and unsavory material here so I wouldn't be surprised. Things proceed in a crawl, with countless long pointless scenes. The whole idea of a group of childhood friends never appealed to me, there's just too much history and past to which we are not privy. But here they did their best to include us with all the flashbacks, too many in my opinion. Until the final episode I couldn't even tell which kid was which adult. Those scenes of adolescence and sexual awakenings and curiosity are well portrayed. The crime investigation itself is pretty thrilling, but unfortunately not the focus. This miniseries is really about motherhood, parenting, about growing up without parents or with dysfunctional parents. And of course the motive for the crimes comes down to that all-important need to be loved, to be desired, to be admired. It's not as some reviewers claim about manipulation with scent, it's about what motivates people to do that.

Production is strong, as always with German programs though filmed during winter. The police work has a colder look while the scenes with the friends are warmer. The music is excellent and makes things more thrilling than they really are. Sometimes the music gets ahead of itself reaching a climax that isn't there. or comes later. The characters are all solid, except perhaps for the rather empty Roman and the dull adult Elena. Nadja, too, doesn't make the most compelling lead. The violent but funny Butsche and the smart, mysterious, and charismatic Moritz steal the show. A shame we didn't get to see more of them.

One has to invest a lot of time in Perfum, but ultimately it's worthwhile.

Terrifier
(2016)

Gory fun
A survivor of some massacre is interviewed on TV, her face is completely destroyed. When the interview is over, someone attacks the interviewer.

Then two girls leave a Halloween party, go for some pizza. At the pizza joint they meet Art the clown. He's just sitting there giving everyone a hard time. Eventually the boss kicks him out. After the girls leave we learn that Art killed the boss and his employee gruesomely. One of the girls needs a restroom so she asks some guy she sees in front of a building to let her in. He agrees. He's about to fumigate the building. There's some crazy lady in the building...and Art. Soon the girl runs into her friend as Art is cutting her apart, literally. At some point the girl called her sister to pick them up, she eventually also ends up in the building being chased by Art. When the cops arrive, there's a surprise turn of events, and a not so surprising surprise at the morgue. There's a final revelatory scene.

Terrifier is a lower budget horror movie where all the money went into the brutal gore and there's plenty of gore, more than in any recent horror movie. Art (and Leone) sure has something against faces as he loves destroying them. Usually I don't care for clowns, in horror or elsewhere, but Art is a genuinely creepy and disturbing looking clown, much more effective than the downright stupid looking clown in the new It. The dialogue, the little there is, is pretty good and natural. And overall the story is pretty good and shows some effort. I could have done though without a near-naked Art.

Unfortunately there's a lot that is necessarily formulaic in Terrifier. The whole thing takes place at night of course. The location is awful. It's supposed to be an empty building with an abandoned auto repair shop or some such thing and most of the action takes place in the basement. Once the action starts, dialogue stops. There are few sound and no music. Art is also silent, even when he's being attacked and getting hurt. When you have no dialogue things also get boring quickly, and even though this movie is shorter it does feel longer, even more so since Art isn't exactly a quick-moving fellow.

I sure look forward to a sequel. One can only imagine what Leone could do with a bigger budget. Overall, Terrifier is a recommended horror flick.

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