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Review: The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

Directed by: Peter Mullan | 119 minutes | drama | Actors: Nora-Jane Noone, Anne-Marie Duff, Dorothy Duffy, Eileen Walsh, Mary Murray, Britta Smith, Frances Healy, Eithne McGuinness, Phyllis MacMahon, Rebecca Walsh, Geraldine McEwan, Eamonn Owens, Chris Simpson, Sean Colgan, Daniel Costello Kate Christie, Alison Goldie, Jemma Heath, Anita Hyslop, Marianne McGill, Leonna McGilligan, Claire McKenzie, Claire Murray, Lynsey Robson, Mariann Taylor, Julie Austin, Deirdre Davis, Ian Hanmore, Pol McAdam, Sean McDonagh, Sean Mackin, David Muldrew, Ciaran Owens, Kevin Shields, Ashley Conroy, Pauline Goldsmith, Leanne Henderson, Stephen Mallon, Jim Murray, Christopher Sheridan, Maureen Allan, Laurie Ventry, Jim Walsh, Fran Brennan, Gemma Burns, Daniel Emerson, Tracy Kearney, Stephen McCole, Gareth Milne, Peter Mullan, Julie Wilson Nimmo, Nick Powell, Allan Sharpe, Callum Smith, Flynn Turner, McCauley Smith

‘The Magdalene Sisters’ tells the truth-based story of three girls who, in 1964, are expelled from the strict Catholic Irish community for various reasons. Margaret, Rose and Bernadette have to pay for their sins – rape, an illegitimate child, a little flirting – and are unceremoniously delivered to a convent by parents or orphanage. Under an iron prison regime, they have to do the laundry day in and day out, an activity with which the monastery earns a little extra. In this place of physical and mental exhaustion, of humiliation and despair, where even a name is not a possession of its own – We already have a Rose, from now on your name is Patricia – the overriding thought becomes how to escape. This is not easy, because it is not only the fence that forms a barrier to return to normal life.

The film has a chilling opening scene. When the news of Margaret’s rape gets out during the party, it spreads like wildfire through the family. However, we only see the looks, the conversations are drowned out by the rousing music of the Irish band. Margaret’s fate is in the hands of others, it becomes painfully clear in the first few minutes. Powerlessness and oppression also dominate in the rest of the film, although this diminishes towards the end, and the film threatens to get bogged down in an escape drama.

In the monastery the emphasis is on work and penance, and the endless washing is a nice metaphor for cleansing the soul. The indignities to which the girls are subjected are aptly portrayed in a scene in which they undergo a biggest-breast-thickest-butt contest. However, ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ never becomes a tearjerker and plays on feelings of injustice rather than pity. That this is about more than a prison with a fence around it becomes unmistakably clear when Margaret gets the chance to escape. Because why not leave immediately if a back door is accidentally open and you are also offered a lift? Knowing that your own family has brought you to the monastery gives little hope of a safe escape. It must be the thought of this outcast that makes Margaret turn around. Pity or friendship with the other girls is less likely: although they are all in the same boat, there is hardly any contact between the girls. Except for a few moments of compassion, an everyone-for-himself atmosphere predominates: the fear of being punished is great. The viewer should be grateful for this. Had an Annie-esque orphanage atmosphere been created, the already fairly clear line between good and evil might have become a real nuisance.

The acting performances of the young, unknown actresses are very convincing, although none of the characters really get any depth. This superficiality is on the one hand a pity, on the other hand the main characters represent a phenomenon much more than an individual story: such laundries, including the degrading practices, really existed and the last of these was only closed in 1996. Scottish director Peter Mullan proves that this theme is impressive enough for a beautiful, if perhaps a little too long, film.

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Review: The Recruit (2003)

The Recruit (2003)

Directed by: Roger Donaldson | 105 minutes | action, thriller | Actors: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Mike Realba, Kenneth Mitchell, Ron Lea, Karl Pruner, Jeanie Calleja, Domenico Fiore, Angelo Tsarouchas

James Clayton, played by Colin Farrell (‘Minority Report’, ‘Phone Booth’), is a brilliant computer freak who goes his own way and doesn’t care about anyone. He is recruited by a mysterious CIA agent named Walter Burke (Al Pacino). At first, James refuses. He finally agrees to find out more about the disappearance of his father, who worked for the CIA. At “The Farm,” the CIA’s training facility, James, along with other recruits, undergoes rigorous physical and psychological training. After completing training, James is given his first assignment, which involves spying on Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan), because she is suspected of double espionage. The matter is complicated because he has a secret love affair with her.

‘The Recruit’ has a slow start in the beginning, partly because James Clayton has to be trained from A to Z in the intricacies of the espionage profession. From the moment he receives his first assignment, the story picks up speed, but there is no real denouement. The script is too limited for that, explanation about the espionage profession takes too much time and there is no more room for character development. The film therefore becomes superficial. The present action scenes can no longer save ‘The Recruit’.

The viewer is misled here and there because the makers have more information than they show during the course of the film. This is a cheap way to make a thriller. Actively thinking along who the mole is is taken away from the viewer. What remains then is watching the movie while enjoying a bag of chips and a glass of cola and let everything come over you. It will be clear that ‘The Recruit’ does not rise above the average action film. For that, the makers should have recruited a better script writer.

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Review: The Rookie (2002)

The Rookie (2002)

Directed by: John Lee Hancock | 120 minutes | drama, family | Actors: Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Brian Cox, Jay Hernandez, Beth Grant, August T. Jones, Rick Gonzalez, Chad Lindberg, Angelo Spizzirri, Royce D. Applegate, Russell Richardson, Raynor Scheine, David Blackwell

When a movie starts with: based on a true story, you know you have to be careful. Film adaptations of real lives quickly degenerate into sentimental tearjerkers about overcome illnesses or unexpected successes. The thought that the true story is topped with a Hollywood sauce consisting of beautiful stars and dramatic freedoms often spoils a story in itself. In ‘The Rookie’ we are presented with such a true story about a man who was not old enough to chase his dreams. Jimmy Morris’s baseball life and a broken shoulder prevent him from becoming a real celebrity. He uses his passion to inspire others, yet another special teacher initially inspires a reluctant class story, but also leads him to go the extra mile. Two films for the price of one, because with two hours running time, ‘The Rookie’ can be called a bit on the long side.

Of its kind, the baseball movie, ‘The Rookie’ is by no means a bad movie. Dennis Quaid plays a believable pitcher and the film is full of pleasant characters, not least Rachel Griffiths who plays Mrs. Morris plays. ‘The Natural’ (Robert Redford as an older baseball player) was admittedly a better film on the same subject and ‘The Fan’ (Robert De Niro as an over the top baseball fan) showed us more of the machinations in the world of baseball, but ‘ The Rookie’ succeeds in hitting the nerve in its intent, with the film balancing between feel-good movie and tearjerker. This is undoubtedly due to the family ties that are developed during the film. Jimmy Morris tries to come to terms with his father and be a good father himself. Surprising results should not be expected, however true it may be, it is still a film.

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Review: Jackie Brown (1997)

Jackie Brown (1997)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino | 154 minutes | drama, thriller, crime | Actors: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Chris Tucker, Michael Bowen, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Tommy Lister, Hattie Winston, Sid Haig

Elmore Leonard wrote the book, ‘Rum Punch’, on which this film is based. The funny thing is, after reading the book, Quentin Tarantino based the character of Jackie Brown on actress Pam Grier. It wasn’t until he reread the book that he found out that Jackie Brown is white in the book. The characters are believable, the acting is excellent. The shots are beautiful. It starts when we see Pam Grier in her flight attendant outfit and profile standing on the assembly line, then running to catch her plane. Very nicely portrayed, with the colored tiles in the background.

One of Quentin Tarantino’s many talents is casting ‘has been’ actors in major roles. For example, John Travolta’s career revived after ‘Pulp Fiction’. This film pays tribute to Pam Grier and Robert Forster. Both actors do a great job in this movie. Pam Grier is a strong, intelligent woman, who manipulates the men around her as if it were a hobby rather than a necessity. Robert Forster is fantastic as Max Cherry, the person who gets Jackie Brown out of jail by paying her bail. It’s so touching to see him in the music store buying a cassette tape from The Delfonics. The sentimental look in his eyes when he looks at Jackie, the crush is flying off the screen! A worse movie would no doubt include a sex scene between the two. Fortunately, that is missing in this film. A beautiful role is also reserved for the bad guy in the film, Samuel L. Jackson, dealer in illegal weapons. It can’t just be because of his appearance that you see a completely different person here than in his previous roles. What a versatile actor! His long hair and the braid in his beard are ideas of his own. His noisy, busy character is diametrically opposed to the quiet, somewhat sluggish characters of Robert De Niro and Robert Forster. Robert De Niro stars as Ordell’s comrade, Louis Gara. He’s just been out of jail for four days and it all seems to leave him indifferent, until a certain, crucial, moment in the film. Such a supporting actor is daring, but Robert De Niro manages not to steal the show, he acts in a modest way, but that benefits the character he portrays. Bridget Fonda is formidable as a surfer babe and girlfriend of Ordell, Melanie. She is continuously high and seems to have no ambition other than getting high and watching TV. But meanwhile, she tries to fool her boyfriend Ordell.

The music is well chosen, even if you don’t like Motown you’ll have to admit that the music supports the movie perfectly. Admittedly, it’s a long film, but despite that, the story remains captivating without being annoyed by the slow course of the story. The film was less well received by some Tarantino fans, precisely because of the almost sluggish pace and the violence often off-screen. However, the – often humorous – dialogues and character developments are still fully present to give this film the appreciation it deserves.

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Review: Out of Sight (1998)

Out of Sight (1998)

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh | 123 minutes | action, drama, thriller, comedy, romance, crime | Actors: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Dennis Farina, Luis Guzmán, Catherine Keener, Steve Zahn, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton

‘Out of Sight’ is directed by Steven Soderbergh, one of the most successful directors (‘Traffic’, ‘Ocean’s Eleven’, Erin Brockovich’ and ‘Solaris’), who has a fantastic script that knows a story that is well put together. and has fun, crisp dialogue. The lead roles of Jack Foley and Karen Sisco are played very convincingly by George Clooney (“Ocean’s Eleven”, “Solaris” and “Intolerable Cruelty”) and Jennifer Lopez (“U-Turn”, “The Cell” and “Enough” ).

If there has to be one movie where you can feel the chemistry between the lead actors, it’s ‘Out of Sight’. It is a sultry film because of the passion they feel for each other. Jennifer Lopez, who occasionally takes a trip to Hollywood, has made another good choice with ‘Out of Sight’. Although script writer Elmore Leonard envisioned a leggy blonde for the role of Karen Sisco, the role was made for her. George Clooney is often seen, albeit with varying degrees of success, in films by ‘friend’ director Steven Soderbergh.

In addition to the aforementioned protagonists, Ving Rhames is the perfect side-kick of George Clooney, allowing him to shine even more, but also to impress fellow actors. Ving Rhames plays Buddy Bragg, who helps Jack Foley escape, as well as plan the diamond heist. The film falls somewhere between the many genres, which makes it pleasant to watch. Time flies and before you know it the movie is over.

You might expect a ‘standard’ film given the story and the actors, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of plot changes to keep it from becoming a monotonous story. You should actually see the film several times because you notice different things every time. An absolute must!

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Review: American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho (2000)

Directed by: Mary Harron | 102 minutes | drama, horror, thriller | Actors: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Bill Sage, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Jared Leto, Cara Seymour, Guinevere Turner, Stephen Bogaert, Monika Meier, Reg E. Cathey

In the late 1980s, writer Bret Easton Ellis made a careful attempt to expose the yuppie life of the decade that lay behind him. His 400+ page novel American Psycho is a laundry list of outward appearances, almost a handbook for anyone with aspirations to become yup. Only for career freaks you would say. But main character Patrick Bateman is not happy. He is numb and nothing satisfies him anymore. Maybe a yoga class, or falling in love with a secretary? No, it is not. He dissects human bodies, just to feel something. Patrick Bateman goes in search of increasingly extreme deeds, while his despair only grows.

Bret Easton Ellis and later filmmaker Mary Harron have not seen their world turn to gold by ‘American Psycho’. Critics who failed to see that Bateman is not human but a model for the numbness of an era found Ellis perverted and Harron could not interest a well-known Hollywood actor for the lead. With Christian Bale as Bateman she made a solid, but also chilly film. The shred of humanity that the Bateman from the book still had is completely gone in the film; the violence becomes satire, losing its emotional charge. Nevertheless, Harron has succeeded well in filling the big pill full of ‘places to be’ in New York, extensive descriptions of eighties music (Whitney Houston, Huey Lewis & the News, Phil Collins) and characterizations of the rich to an hour and a half. to form, a psychological horror film with a light thriller element. Bateman’s attempts to make his desperation clear to those around him come out well at the end, but ‘American Psycho’ remains an ‘action film’ nonetheless.

‘American Psycho’ really makes you understand why a book – and in this case a thick book – is sometimes preferable to a movie. The violence causes the image to dominate the message. Christian Bale is a kind of android à la ‘Blade Runner’ and as a result the film threatens to lean towards a parody of violence, while the book is a sketch of morals. The film is a good attempt to make the impossible come true.

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Review: The Year of the Devil-Rok dábla (2002)

The Year of the Devil-Rok dábla (2002)

Directed by: Petr Zelenka | 88 minutes | comedy, fantasy, documentary | Actors: Jan Prent, Jaz Coleman, Jaromír Nohavica, Karel Plíhal, Karel Holas, Frantisek Cerný, Radek Poboril, Michal Pavlík, Radek Klucka, Jitka Obzinová, Eliska Klimesová, Sasa Mika, Václav Glazar, David Fotter

You do not capture reality with film, that is an old-fashioned truth. Nowhere is this as clear as in the fake documentary that shows how treacherous (real) documentaries can be. A skilled filmmaker can present a completely made up story credibly with great ease. Director Zelenka thus follows in the footsteps of illustrious predecessors such as Orson Welles and Rob Reiner. His ‘This is Spinal Tap’ (1984) in particular painted a hilarious portrait of a band-on-tour.
Zelenka already managed to surprise with ‘Knoflíkari’ (1997), a colorful frame story full of absurd characters and unlikely connections. ‘The Year of the Devil’ also begins with a strange introduction in which a series of witnesses report cases of spontaneous combustion. Even the naivest spectator knows what to expect.

A good fake documentary stands or falls with the cast, which must be credible, which is different from acting believable. For insiders it is nice to see Filmmuseum employee Jan Prent as the Dutch documentary maker and the other roles are also heavily occupied. Nohavica becomes a credible legend of Czech folk-rock and the small struggles and big conflicts that life on-the-road entails seem to have been plucked straight from an MTV feature. Clichés are masterfully magnified and all trump cards are played out, so that for a single moment the attention of the viewer threatens to stray from the main line of the story. Zelenka, however, is skilled enough to sustain a pleasurable evening of cheating.

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Review: Insomnia (2002)

Insomnia (2002)

Directed by: Christopher Nolan | 118 minutes | drama, crime, thriller | Actors: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan, Paul Dooley, Nicky Katt, Larry Holden, Jay Brazeau, Lorne Cardinal, James Hutson, Andrew Campbell, Paul Shaw, Crystal Lowe, Tasha Simms

After his successful film ‘Memento’, director Christopher Nolan has made a very successful successor with ‘Insomnia’. It is not an original script on two counts. In ‘Memento’ the story is told from back to front. Not so in ‘Insomnia’. In addition, we are dealing with a remake of the Norwegian film with the same title from 1997.

‘Insomnia’ is a psychological thriller in which loyalty and human emotion are central. The number of main characters is limited to four, but the character developments are very strong. The characters each have the necessary baggage that they carry with them. This is made clear to the viewer during the course of the film.

Both Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) and Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) remain loyal to Will Dormer (Al Pacino) in his unorthodox way of investigating. The only question is how far can he continue with this. The characters undergo, whether or not in combination with the continuous daylight, the necessary emotional phases, which are played in such a way that it comes across as natural.

Cinematographically, the film has beautiful shots that are a feast for the eyes. The fact that we are dealing with twenty-four hours of daylight is also shown in a sublime way. A good example of this is that Will (Al Pacino) wants to investigate, but Ellie (Hilary Swank) points out that it is evening and the school the victim attended is closed.

The role of Will Dormer is superbly played by Al Pacino. Martin Donovan, who plays the role of Hap Eckhart, gives Al Pacino all the space to shine. He knows exactly the right interpretation of his character, so that Al Pacino continues to grow in his role. For a change we see Robin Williams in the role of the villain, who still manages to get the necessary sympathy from the viewer. He shows that he is capable of a lot when it comes to acting. It’s a shame that Hilary Swank can’t match the level of her fellow actors. She is unable to give sufficient shape to her character development. The chemistry between Al Pacino and Robin Williams actually makes it almost impossible for her to intervene.

‘Insomnia’ is a fantastic film, which fortunately will not give you sleepless nights.

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Review: Time Lapse (2001)

Time Lapse (2001)

Directed by: David Worth | 88 minutes | thriller | Actors: William McNamara, Dina Meyer, Roy Scheider, Henry Rollins, Barry Lynch, Adoni Maropis, Endre Hules, Cassandra Hepburn

Agent Clayton Pierce works for the government and has infiltrated a Russian/Iraqi drug trade. At least that’s what he thinks. When the briefcase is about to be handed over, he discovers that it contains a nuclear weapon. He does not change his mind for a moment, but starts shooting at random, is shot himself, but manages to flee. Just before he falls down, he can tell his colleague, Gaines, what’s going on and give him the briefcase to get to safety.

When he regains consciousness, a doctor friend wants to examine him, but reveals that his memory is still top notch. The doctor lets him go, with the proviso that he does not go kickboxing and does not drink alcohol for the time being. Less than a minute later, his boss, La Nova, offers him an anisette, a drink that tastes like liquorice. And then the trouble begins…

Clay wants to go home, but walks to the wrong car. The doctor reminds him of this fact. Even when he has arrived at home, his house key does not fit, but he still manages to find the spare key flawlessly. In the bedroom he meets his wife Kate. However, she is stunned that Clay is at her house, as they have been separated for three years! Clay can’t remember anything about this and wants to get to the bottom of the matter, with Kate’s help.

If you don’t know what the movie is about, the first twenty minutes are very confusing. The film opens with a scene where we see Clay win a chess game from a computer and then have ten seconds left to leave the premises. A huge explosion ensues and Clay jumps out the window just in time. Then time jumps back six days and we see Clay again engaged in a game of chess, this time with a Russian. He is undercover and involved in a drug deal between Russians and Iraqis. At the time of closing the deal, Clay discovers that the contents of the briefcase are not drugs, but a nuclear weapon. The film then continues until we get the opening scene again, after which the film continues again. The reason for the double showing of this scene is not clear to me. The director probably thought it was artistic.

There is not much to say about the film in terms of acting. Lead actor William McNamara looks so silly that it is absolutely not credible that he “speaks five languages, can ride a motorcycle in everything, has a photographic memory and has never said he does not understand anything” (quote from his ex-wife Kate). He looks like he can’t even “don’t annoy you” – let alone play chess! Roy Scheider has also played in better movies. The role of Kate is played by Dina Meyer, also known from ‘Starship Troopers’ (1997) and she stands head and shoulders above the rest. Henry Rollins also plays a small role as Gaines remarkably well.

‘Time Lapse’ isn’t exciting, because you already know who the bad guy is from the start. The use of chess terms and scenes seems artificial. It seems as if the director wanted to make a more intelligent film than it ended up being. Also, for example, the scene in which Clay is helped by Suzie Lee, a computer expert, who can scoop up the requested information in a few seconds, is very much sought after. For the fun of it, Suzie Lee is only made to be a lesbian, and of course Clay enters just as she is about to make love to her mistress. For the fans among us: it is a film for 12 years and older, so don’t expect an interesting scene!

‘Time Lapse’ is occasionally reminiscent of ‘Memento’ (2000), but of course this level is not reached anywhere. It’s a far cry from a B-movie, but if you’re in the mood for a time lapse, you can definitely watch this movie.

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Review: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh | 112 minutes | thriller, comedy, crime | Actors: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Bernie Mac, Elliott Gould, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Shaobo Qin, Carl Reiner, Don Cheadle, Holly Marie Combs

‘Ocean’s Eleven’ is a remake of the 1960 film of the same name. Just like in 1960, the director now has an impressive star cast at his disposal in 2001. At the time it was Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., who had to pull the cart, now mainly George Clooney and Brad Pitt are the eye-catchers. These stars have to get the audience excited for the film.

The story itself is not interesting, but of course the renowned names create high expectations. Fortunately, the expectations are fulfilled. The actors, who by the way play for a pittance of their usual salary, are clearly looking forward to it. Julia Roberts cashed no less than $20.00, which was paid by George Clooney out of his own pocket. The fun splashes off the canvas.

The absolute star is George Clooney, who clearly knows how to inspire the other actors with his acting. Unfortunately Andy Garcia is a bit out of tune. He doesn’t come across as mean enough as the “bad guy”, Terry Benedict, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun. In addition to Andy Garcia, the makers also had Warren Beatty, Michael Douglas or Ralph Fiennes in mind for the role of Terry Benedict. There were several well-known stars, such as Luke and Owen Wilson, who fell by the wayside due to their commitments with ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’. Originally, Matt Damon was also not supposed to participate. His role would be played by Mark Wahlberg. Fortunately, the viewer does not notice the lack of all those actors at all.

In addition, the lack of story is compensated by the razor-sharp dialogues and the film looks flashy due to swinging camera work under the direction of Steven Soderbergh. The movie is over before you know it and leaves a crushing impression. It almost goes without saying that after the success of the film, the makers are willing to take a chance with a second part, which saw the light of day in 2004.