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Review: Antlers (2021)

Antlers (2021)

Directed by: Scott Cooper | 99 minutes | drama, horror | Actors: Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, Amy Madigan, Sawyer Jones, Cody Davis, Lyla Marlow, Jesse Downs, Arlo Hajdu, Dorian Kingi, Ken Kramer, Dendrie Taylor

You have horror movies and you have ‘Antlers’. This Scott Cooper movie is different from your average horror movie. You could also call this a suffocating drama with a few horror passages. ‘Antlers’ is not so much about gore or jumpscares, but relies heavily on the setting of the atmosphere. And Cooper has succeeded well in that. This movie is one bonk atmosphere, but not of the right kind…

‘Antlers’ revolves around Julia Meadows (Keri Russell). This lady has been badly damaged by life and is having a hard time standing up. Yet she works as a teacher in a sleepy town and lives with her estranged brother (Jesse Plemons). When Julia sees the quiet Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas) in her class, she recognizes traces of abuse. She tries to contact Lucas’ father Frank (Scott Haze). However, this man is missing and it seems that Lucas lives alone in the house. Something isn’t right about the kid’s story, and Julia sets out to investigate. The results of her quest are shocking…

‘Antlers’ is a cleverly made film, but it fails in the setting. Everything in this film exudes desolation, despair and pain. Each character carries a terrible history and future with them and that makes this film top heavy. There is no room for some air or humor that puts things into perspective.

If Cooper had built in some moments of rest, this film would have been more manageable. If you put alcoholism, child abuse and malnutrition in one film and then add an indestructible monster, there is little perspective left. ‘Antlers’ is too much of a good thing and after a while the film dulls. That’s a shame, because the acting is very strong. Russell is doing well as a shaky nanny and gets good counterplay from Plemons as her brother who tries to make something of his life despite his ruined childhood. Child actor Thomas is also extraordinary in the role of the reclusive Lucas.

If an inky, depressing horror film doesn’t scare you, then this film is definitely for you.

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Review: Astronaut (2019)

Astronaut (2019)

Directed by: Shelagh McLeod | 97 minutes | drama | Actors: Richard Dreyfuss, Lyriq Bent, Krista Bridges, Colm Feore, Richie Lawrence, Art Hindle, Graham Greene, Judy Marshak, Jennifer Phipps, Joan Gregson, Karen LeBlanc, Paulino Nunes, Mimi Kuzyk, Mike Taylor

Richard Dreyfuss stars in ‘Astronaut’ Angus Stewart, a retired seventies with a growing list of health problems. Angus lives with his daughter Molly (Krista Bridges), her husband Jim (Lyriq Bent) and his grandson Barney (Richie Lawrence), with whom he always looks at the stars through his telescope in the evenings. Jim has been pushing for Angus to be sent to a nursing home for some time now, a decision Molly and Barney eventually reluctantly agree to. Angus hates it in his new home, where most of the residents are lonely people and the employees treat him with little respect. Angus, however, finds a way out of his situation when Barney encourages him to enter a unique lottery that ties in with their shared love of space travel. Billionaire entrepreneur Marcus Brown (Colm Feore) is looking for humans to take part in the first-ever commercial spaceflight. Twelve participants are chosen after a random draw and then placed in a competition where the public chooses the final travelers. Contestants must be between the ages of 18 and 65, but Barney still encourages his grandpa to submit his name, and he does, thinking that with a little exercise, he can look years younger. And so Angus suddenly has a chance at a dream he gave up decades ago, to the delight of grandson Barney and annoyance of son-in-law Jim.

It’s always good to see Richard Dreyfuss, who will forever remain in the hearts of movie buffs because of his 70s heyday (“American Graffiti,” “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”). Unfortunately, it’s less easy to argue that his latest film, ‘Astronaut’, will also become a future classic. ‘Astronaut’ relies almost entirely on the acting of Dreyfuss, who tries to give his character sufficient charm and nuance throughout the playing time. There are less good things to say about the other characters. Most of the characters in ‘Astronaut’ change attitudes and character motivations from scene to scene, and are living clichés in almost every way. Each character is a stereotype – the troubled daughter, the impatient son-in-law, the lovely grandson, the mean nurses, the shady business types – there is almost no end to it. It is difficult to identify with these characters. They simply never come across as real people.

Story-wise, the film also falls short. ‘Astronaut’ isn’t the kind of movie you think it is. The succinct synopsis—an elderly person enters a raffle to participate in the first commercial flight into space—suggests a film in which a moody but sympathetic senior battles a younger generation to realize his long-cherished dream. Perhaps it’s admirable that Shelagh McLeod’s directorial debut goes in a completely different direction with his story, but in the end it turns out that her film is very unbalanced as a result. ‘Astronaut’ jumps from one piece to the next and has way too many subplots. In addition to Angus’ dream to become an astronaut, there is also a subplot in which son-in-law Jim loses his job as a bank employee, there are all kinds of diversions with some colorful old people in the retirement home and there is also a plot in which Angus tries to convince billionaire Marcus. that his runway is not safe. These subplots don’t make sense and they just distract from the main story.

‘Astronaut’ often relies on sentimentality, easy aging jokes, and cheap family drama. The film does not take risks in almost any area. The conclusion is that ‘Astronaut’ is just a very mediocre film. The characters are flat, the script too easygoing and it lacks the cinematic ambition to deliver on its promises. Richard Dreyfuss does his best in the lead role, but the film does not rise above average in that respect either.

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Review: Molly’s Game (2017)

Molly’s Game (2017)

Directed by: Aaron Sorkin | 141 minutes | biography, drama | Actors: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, JC MacKenzie, Brian d’Arcy James, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Justin Kirk, Angela Gots, Natalie Krill, Stephanie Herfield, Madison McKinley, Joe Keery, Michael Kostroff, Claire Rankin, Victor Serfaty

Aaron Sorkin has the gift of translating subjects that are initially not too ‘cinemagenic’ into a smooth scenario. A bone-dry court drama such as ‘A Few Good Men’ (1992), internet-related topics such as the rise of Facebook in ‘The Social Network’ (2010) and the life of Apple founder Steve Jobs in the film named after him from 2015 and the statistical approach to elite sport in ‘Moneyball’ (2011); Sorkin knows how to make it a smooth and fascinating spectacle. Anyone who takes a look at his trophy cabinet – in addition to an Oscar, Sorkin also has two Golden Globes and no fewer than five Prime Time Emmys in the cupboard (the latter for the television series ‘The West Wing’) – understands that Sorkin really knows his trade . No one needs to worry about knowing what to do with the biography of Molly Bloom, the woman who played a pivotal role in an extensive illegal poker network in Los Angeles and New York. When her empire was rolled up, countless movie stars, athletes and businessmen were called to the fore. Bloom himself got off miraculously with a year’s probation and a $1,000 fine. While other filmmakers might focus on the tension surrounding the poker game itself, Sorkin, who also makes his directorial debut with ‘Molly’s Game’ (2017), focuses entirely on Molly Bloom, who as a woman in a man’s stronghold managed surprisingly well. hold.

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) grows up in the American state of Colorado, where she is taught by her tough yet loving father (Kevin Costner) that she will not be messed with. In her youth she especially asserts herself on the ski slopes; she has a promising career on the US Olympic ski team. But then she makes such a huge blow that she sees her Olympic dream go up in smoke in one fell swoop. She does not finish the law school she started. She leaves for Los Angeles to look for a job there. She is eventually hired at a shady real estate agency, where her boss (Jeremy Strong) introduces her to the world of illegal poker. While she initially acts as an assistant, she soon realizes that she might as well start for herself. When her former boss’s clients “cross over” to her poker club, Molly has definitely established her name as the poker queen of Hollywood. Movie stars, top athletes, bankers and other ‘tall trees’ – names aren’t mentioned, but if you really want to know which celebrities were sitting at Molly’s poker table, you can consult Google – play for huge sums. Molly stands her ground and makes sure she is always in control. She also manages to expand her empire to New York, where she gets the rich people of Wall Street and the members of the Russian mafia at her table. Her poker stronghold lasts for eight years, until that one FBI raid brings the whole house down like a house of cards.

Aaron Sorkin’s films are known for their deluge of witty dialogue and ‘Molly’s Game’ is also full of it. Just like with tricks such as flashbacks and voice-overs, by the way. Sorkin gets away with using them effectively. Strong female roles are few and far between, especially those in which women manage to hold their own in a world that belongs to men. No wonder Chastain immediately snapped. Without throwing her body into the fray – although she does rely on her charm and her femininity – Molly Bloom surreptitiously manages to conquer her place. While Jessica Chastain doesn’t necessarily have the image that lends itself to this role, she does get her teeth into it and portray the title character in a convincing and ruthless manner. With verve she strings together the many voice-overs and draws us into the story. She faces strong resistance from the likes of Idris Elba as her lawyer, who suspects Molly has more on her plate than she’s arguing for, and good old Kevin Costner, who plays a crucial role in his daughter’s character development. Nice supporting roles include Michael Cera, who symbolizes the Hollywood actors involved in the scandal, and Chris O’Dowd as the man who brings Molly into contact with the Russian underworld and thereby indirectly heralds her downfall.

Sorkin’s directorial debut is one by the book. A captivating biography that quickly chronicles the rise and fall of the poker queen of Hollywood, with sharp dialogue, fast editing and convincing roles. Jessica Chastain shows yet again why she is one of the best actresses of her generation; her Molly Bloom is a heroine with a solid fringe. Though “heroine” may not be quite the right word, as Sorkin shows no compassion when Molly’s connections to the Russian mafia endanger her. However, she has an amazing resilience, which gives her the strength to start over again and again. For that reason alone, this woman fascinates beyond measure. ‘I don’t trust anyone’, is her credo. She also – apart from her family – doesn’t really allow anyone into her private life, out of self-protection. It is precisely this armor of apparent inviolability that makes her vulnerable and human. Sorkin does not pass judgment on her, her dubious practices and the way she gets away with it, but shows the abuses of our society, in which we accept everything from men indiscriminately and women are directly taunted.

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Review: Wind River (2017)

Directed by: Taylor Sheridan | 111 minutes | crime, drama, thriller | Actors: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Kelsey Asbille, Julia Jones, Teo Briones, Apesanahkwat, Graham Greene, Tantoo Cardinal, Eric Lange, Gil Birmingham, Althea Sam, Tokala Clifford, Martin Sensmeier, Tyler Laracca, Shayne J. Cullen, Austin R Grant, Ian Bohen, Hugh Dillon, Matthew Del Negro, James Jordan

If you disappear without a trace one day and are later found lifeless, you better be female, young and white. Anyone who does not fit into that box is given less priority by the investigative units. At least, it is in the United States. Writer and director Taylor Sheridan was shocked when, during the filming of ‘Wind River’ (2017), some leaders of the Shoshone Indian tribe told him that at the time, in a population of just 6,000 people, there were 12 unsolved murders of young women in the reserve. The tribes had been deprived of the right to arrest and bring to justice non-Native American criminals in the late 1970s, even if their criminal activities had taken place in an Indian reservation. If both victim and perpetrator are from outside the tribe, the arrest may only be made by a county or state officer, and if the victim is Indian but the perpetrator is not, only a federally certified agent may make the arrest. If the opposite is the case, a sheriff from the tribe may make the arrest, but the case must still go through the federal court. Because of so many snags, it is impossible for the Native Americans to get the right people under lock and key. Many criminals get away with their crimes as a result. It is high time for Sheridan to draw attention to this twisted situation.

From the first scene of “Wind River” we are right on the edge of our seats: in a poverty-stricken reserve in icy Wyoming, we see a young girl running across the snow plains. Who is she running from? Not much later, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), who as an employee of the organization is engaged in controlling and conserving nature and is in search of the big cats who are after the cattle, discovers the lifeless body of the girl. She – eighteen-year-old Nathalie Hansen (Kelsey Chow) – turns out to have been raped and murdered. It is not long before local authorities intervene. The FBI, in the person of Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), comes to Wyoming in a fat car from Las Vegas to investigate. She is like a fish out of water in the inhospitable snow landscape and has no idea how to communicate with the locals. Luckily, Cory is there to help her. For even though they differ from each other as day and night, they are still doomed to each other to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. The murdered girl’s parents (Gil Birmingham and Tantoo Cardinal) have no idea who could be behind their daughter’s murder. Nathalie’s brother Chip (Martin Sensmeier) turns out not to be such a sweetheart; addicted to drugs, he is the leader of a gang that scares the reservation. He could be leading Cory and Jane to the right culprit …

Sheridan – originally an actor – is the screenwriter of “Sicario” (2015) and “Hell or High Water” (2016), two films that make up his American Frontier trilogy with “Wind River”; dynamic, modern westerns that do not shy away from vigorous action and violence, but also provide sharp insights into pressing social issues in the US. “Wind River” is only his second film as a director; nevertheless, there is hardly any uncertainty. Sheridan draws his audience directly into the story, especially with the confronting, grueling and harsh conditions under which the Native Americans live, and the few opportunities they have to escape this situation. He also creates interesting characters. So it turns out that Cory, who is outwardly sober and rock-solid and always tries to do the right thing, carries a desperate past. His own daughter once happened to be much the same as Nathalie Hanson, and the two girls were also friends. The aftermath of that terrible event cost him his marriage. Racer is cut out for this role; the heartbreaking scene in which he tells Jane his personal history is particularly impressive. Sheridan is undoubtedly a fan of the work of Sam Peckinpah and Quentin Tarantino, because especially towards the end of “Wind River” he gives more than a nod to both filmmakers and loses sight of his own craft. Although well executed, it is still a small slip in an otherwise flawless script. Sheridan is also on the right track when it comes to directing, although “Wind River” – the only film he directed himself – is the least of his “American Frontier “trilogy (” Sicario “directed by Denis Villeneuve and” Hell or High Water “by David Mackenzie), because the other two are slightly more balanced.

“Wind River” is a fine piece of writing, an exciting mystery with complex characters, dazzling action and also a powerful social undertone. We’ve rarely seen Jeremy Renner look this good and Taylor Sheridan is a man we’ll be watching closely for years to come!

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Review: Wind River (2017)

Wind River (2017)

Directed by: Taylor Sheridan | 111 minutes | crime, drama, thriller | Actors: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Kelsey Asbille, Julia Jones, Teo Briones, Apesanahkwat, Graham Greene, Tantoo Cardinal, Eric Lange, Gil Birmingham, Althea Sam, Tokala Clifford, Martin Sensmeier, Tyler Laracca, Shayne J. Cullen, Austin R Grant, Ian Bohen, Hugh Dillon, Matthew Del Negro, James Jordan

If one day you disappear without a trace and are later found lifeless, you better be female, young and white. Anyone who does not fit into that box is given less priority by the investigative units. At least in the United States it is. Writer and director Taylor Sheridan was shocked when during the filming of ‘Wind River’ (2017) some leaders of the Shoshone Indian tribe told him that at that time, out of a population of only 6,000 people, there were 12 unsolved murders of young women. in the reserve. The tribes had been stripped of the right to arrest and bring to justice non-Indian criminals in the late 1970s, even if their criminal activities had taken place on an Indian reservation. If both victim and perpetrator are from outside the tribe, the arrest may only be made by a county or state officer, and if the victim is Indian but the perpetrator is not, only a federally certified agent may make the arrest. If the opposite is the case, a sheriff from the tribe may make the arrest, but the case must still go through the federal court. Because of so many snags, it is impossible for the Native Americans to get the right people under lock and key. Many criminals get away with their crimes because of this. It is high time for Sheridan to draw attention to this crooked situation.

From the first scene of ‘Wind River’ we are immediately on the edge of our seats: on a penniless reservation in frigid Wyoming, we see a young girl running across the snowfields. Who is she running from? Not much later, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), who as an employee of the organization is engaged in controlling and preserving nature and in search of the big cats that prey on the cattle, discovers the lifeless body of the girl. She – eighteen-year-old Nathalie Hansen (Kelsey Chow) – is found to have been raped and murdered. It doesn’t take long for local authorities to get involved. The FBI, in the person of Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), comes in a fat car from Las Vegas to Wyoming to take a look. She is like a fish out of water in the inhospitable snow landscape and has no idea how to communicate with the locals. But luckily Cory is there to help her. For though they differ as night and day from each other, yet they are condemned to each other to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. The murdered girl’s parents (Gil Birmingham and Tantoo Cardinal) have no idea who might be behind their daughter’s murder. Nathalie’s brother Chip (Martin Sensmeier) turns out not to be such a sweetheart; he is a drug addict and the leader of a gang that terrorizes the reservation. He just might lead Cory and Jane to the right culprit…

Sheridan – an actor by birth – is the screenwriter of ‘Sicario’ (2015) and ‘Hell or High Water’ (2016), two films that together with ‘Wind River’ make up his American Frontier trilogy; dynamic, modern westerns that do not shy away from heavy action and violence, but also provide sharp insights into pressing social issues in the US. ‘Wind River’ is only his second film as a director; nevertheless, there is hardly any uncertainty. Sheridan draws his audience directly into the story, especially with the confrontational, grueling and harsh conditions in which the Native Americans live, and the limited opportunities they have to escape from this situation. He also creates interesting characters. It turns out that Cory, who is outwardly sober and rock solid and always tries to do the right thing, has a bad past. His own daughter was once similar to Nathalie Hanson, and the two girls were friends. The aftermath of that terrible event cost him his marriage. Renner is perfect for this role; especially the heartbreaking scene in which he tells his personal history to Jane, is impressive. Sheridan is undoubtedly a fan of the work of Sam Peckinpah and Quentin Tarantino, because especially towards the end of ‘Wind River’ he gives more than a nod to both filmmakers and loses sight of his own craft. Although well executed, it is a minor slip in an otherwise flawless script. In terms of directing, Sheridan is also on the right track, although ‘Wind River’ – the only film he directed himself – is the least of his ‘American Frontier’ trilogy (‘Sicario’ was directed by Denis Villeneuve and ‘Hell or High Water’ by David Mackenzie), because the other two are just a bit more balanced.

‘Wind River’ is a fine piece of writing, a thrilling mystery with complex characters, rousing action and a powerful social undertone. We’ve rarely seen Jeremy Renner come out so well and Taylor Sheridan is a man we’ll be watching closely for years to come!

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Review: Winter’s Tale (2014)

Directed by: Akiva Goldsman | 118 minutes | drama, fantasy, romance | Actors: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay, William Hurt, Maurice Jones, Graham Greene, Will Smith, Finn Wittrock, Jennifer Connelly, Ripley Sobo, Eve Marie Saint,

“Winter’s Tale”. It sounds like a classic fairytale. The film starts with the following voice-over: “What if, once upon a time…” It couldn’t get any clearer. “Winter’s Tale” is also a story where good is opposed to evil as always. The good is represented by Peter Lake (Colin Farrell with a weird haircut), a literally washed up orphan who makes his living as a petty criminal. Evil is embodied by the demonic Pearly (Russell Crowe), who is at the head of a great rogue organization. Initially, Lake is also employed by him, but soon the young crook unfolds the plan to start his own business. A magical horse helps him escape his vengeful teacher and leads him on the path of the beautiful but sick rich man’s daughter Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay). Lake must do everything he can to stay out of the hands of the tyrannical Pearly and save his new love from a fast approaching death. Only a miracle can seem to bring salvation.

The above may all sound somewhat absurd and artificial to the ears, but within a magically realistic framework that does not have to be an insurmountable objection. Unfortunately, the direction of “Winter’s Tale” is so bad that the magic doesn’t want to come to life. Screenwriter and first-time director Akiva Goldsman (he previously wrote screenplays for “A Beautiful Mind” and “I, Robot”) shows that he still has a lot to learn in the field of the second. There is very little movement in the image. The camera makes a few tracking shots, but that’s all that is said. Movement in the image is also scarce. Actors are often rigid in one position, which makes “Winter’s Tale” very static. In addition, once in a while the 180 degree rule is inexplicably broken and there are numerous other continuity errors. The meaningless editing doesn’t make things any better.

It can be seen from the acting level that Goldsman also does not use good acting direction. It often seems as if the actors do not know what to do. The more experienced players can manage from time to time, but look just toothless when considered. Lighting plays an important role in “Winter’s Tale”, also narratively. But here too the performance leaves much to be desired and the light becomes a nuisance-causing obstacle, full of light flares and other effects that break the illusion of cinema. And that in a film that tries to effectively create an illusion. The special effects also look like they were made twenty years ago. Added to this are the stiff voice-over, the poor sets with clear green screens and the lack of humor. Even the subtitle, “This is not a true story, it’s a love story,” is weak.

“Winter’s Tale” is a deterministic story of fate that falls short in many areas. Ultimately, because of the direction, the film is more of a ridiculous mess than a romantic and magical fairytale.

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Review: Odd Man Out (1947)

Odd Man Out (1947)

Directed by: Carol Reed | 116 minutes | drama, thriller, crime | Actors: James Mason, Robert Newton, Cyril Cusack, Kathleen Ryan, FJ McCormick, William Hartnell, Fay Compton, Denis O’Dea, WG Fay, Maureen Delaney, Elwyn Brook-Jones, Robert Beatty, Dan O’Herlihy, Kitty Kirwan, Beryl Measor, Roy Irving, Joseph Tomelty, Arthur Hambling, Ann Clery, Maura Milligan, Maureen Cusack, Wilfrid Brambell, Dora Bryan, Eddie Byrne, Harry Hutchinson, Geoffrey Keen, Madam Kirkwood-Hackett, Pat McGrath, Maurice Millard, Noel Purcell, Guy Rolfe

Director Carol Reed (1906-1976) was known for his subtle approach to suspense thrillers. His early films are a mixed bag from social dramas (“Bank Holiday”) to wacky comedies (“Climbing High,” both 1938). His first major film, ‘The Stars Look Down’ (1940) described the rise of an idealistic miner’s son to take a government seat. He then directed one of Britain’s better propaganda films, ‘The Way Ahead’ (1944). After the war, Reed took off with a trilogy that revealed a deeper and darker side of himself—fatalistic and full of tragic irony. ‘Odd Man Out’ (1947) follows the last hours of a fleeing Irish nationalist in Belfast. In ‘The Fallen Idol’ (1948), a diplomat’s son believes the only man he cares about has committed murder; in ‘The Third Man’ (1949), a naive American has to realize that his best friend is an exploiter and a murderer. Graham Greene wrote the script for the last two films. ‘The Third Man’ became an instant classic. In this film, Reed’s strengths – his sense of location and his fine nose for casting and directing actors – peaked.

‘Odd Man Out’, the film that marked Reed’s international breakthrough, is based on a novel by FL Green, who also co-wrote the script. James Mason plays Johnny McQueen, a rebel leader in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who represents ‘the organization’. Although the name IRA is never mentioned, it should be clear that reference is made to that organization. McQueen recently escaped prison and is hiding out with his girlfriend Kathleen (Kathleen Ryan) and her grandmother. Although he’s not quite there yet, Johnny can’t help but get involved in political actions. Together with some friends, he decides to rob the local post office, in order to increase the organisation’s coffers. Although his friend Dennis (Robert Beatty) advises him to stay at home, Johnny goes along anyway. During the robbery, however, he blacks out and in a panic shoots and kills a man. He also gets injured himself. It’s too dangerous for his friends to wait for him, so he runs off alone. In the bleak, narrow streets of Belfast, he tries to hide from the police. However, he becomes more and more weakened that he can no longer hide. However, the people he encounters are not all equally disposed towards him. Kathleen, meanwhile, is determined to save Johnny and sets out to find him.

Although Reed’s peak would only follow two years later (‘The Third Man’), he already shows a pretty impressive dose of craftsmanship with ‘Odd Man Out’. The filmmaker liked to be in control (for example, for ‘Odd Man Out’ he also took care of the production), so that he could make everything his own way. In ‘Odd Man Out’ this urge for perfection is best expressed in the atmospheric setting. The nighttime Belfast from this film is grim, realistic and oppressive, making ‘Odd Man Out’ somewhat like an expressionistic fever dream. During his fateful flight, Johnny McQueen discovers that the people he trusted don’t want to take any chances for him. He goes from one to the other, but everyone has an excuse to refuse him help. His injuries make Johnny delirious and his feverish reflections make him realize that he is completely alone. The music and the shadowy black and white images add to the moral ambiguity of the film. For this, Reed owes much to Robert Krasker, the acclaimed cinematographer who previously shot ‘Brief Encounter’ (1945) for David Lean and who went on to win an Oscar for ‘The Third Man’. It is mainly thanks to his work that ‘Odd Man Out’ can visually compete with the work of the legendary German expressionists Murnau and Lang.

Where ‘Odd Man Out’ falls short, however, is the acting. Not that James Mason isn’t a reliable protagonist – quite the contrary! Usually this sublime and quintessentially British actor puts on a great performance. But the role of Johnny McQueen, who wanders around Belfast like a zombie for an hour and a half, just isn’t challenging enough for someone of his qualities. He has hardly any text and in fact only has to wander around in exasperation and pain. He may well do that, but the role is simply not interesting enough. Incidentally, Mason has said more than once that he considered his role in ‘Odd Man Out’ one of the best of his career. Strange… The supporting characters are not all equally interesting. That has nothing to do with Kathleen Ryan, by the way; she plays her part properly and also portrays one of the most sympathetic characters in the film. Robert Beatty and WG Fay (as the local pastor) are also not to blame. Things go awry, though, when FJ McCormick and Robert Newton get involved. Their characters – a feeble-minded birdwatcher and a manic amateur painter – are annoying and distracting from the events (which just as soon as they come into the picture build up to a climax). These grotesque figures should have been left out. Perhaps Reed felt obligated to offer the then wildly popular Newton—a notorious alcoholic who would drink himself when he was 50—a part in his film. Completely unnecessary.

‘Odd Man Out’ clearly loses to Reed’s masterpiece ‘The Third Man’. Nevertheless, the director already shows what he has to offer (thanks to the legendary cameraman Robert Krasker). The acting is somewhat disappointing and the characters are not appealing enough, but in terms of tension, atmosphere and eye for detail, this breakthrough film by Reed is fine. From a political thriller ‘Odd Man Out’ grows into a gripping reflection on human existence that will continue to fascinate film fans.

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Review: The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile (1999)

Directed by: Frank Darabont | 181 minutes | crime, drama, fantasy | Actors: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Clark Duncan, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey DeMunn, Patricia Clarkson, Harry Dean Stanton

Before 1999, few people had heard of Michael Clarke Duncan. His main claim to fame until then was a part in Michael Bay’s action spectacle ‘Armageddon’ (1998), in which the big, strong African-American actor starred alongside Bruce Willis. It was the same Willis who helped Duncan further in his career. When he heard that Frank Darabont was working on a film adaptation of Stephen King’s book ‘The Green Mile’, he called the director and recommended Duncan for the role of John Coffey. Darabont gave the tall Duncan a chance and wouldn’t regret it. Partly due to Duncan’s engaging performance, ‘The Green Mile’ (1999) became one of the most important films of the year. The actor himself was lauded and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, among other things. He lost out to veteran Michael Caine (‘The Cider House Rules’, 1999), for whom this Academy Award was primarily a reward for his entire career, but at least Duncan had made his name. Though the role of big gentle giant fit him like a glove, he would later turn up more often as the nemesis of tough action heroes. Who will give this man a role in which he can show his talents?

Frank Darabont feels at his best when he gets to adapt a Stephen King book. His directorial debut was an instant hit: ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (1994) is considered one of the best films of the 1990s. With ‘The Green Mile’ he ventures into familiar territory, because that story also takes place in a prison and revolves around a special friendship between a white and a black man. However, ‘The Green Mile’ introduces a new element: the supernatural. The film is set almost entirely on death row, the death row of the Coal Mountain Louisiana State Penitentiary, in 1935. Only at the beginning and at the end are fragments from the present, which hug the story like bookends. Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) looks back on his life as the head warden of the prison, also known as The Green Mile. He runs death row with four others – his best friend Brutus Howell (David Morse), young Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper), veteran Harry Terwilliger (Jeffrey DeMunn) and newcomer Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison), an insufferably sadistic little man who talks about it. goes on to say that his aunt is married to the governor and is only working on death row because he would like to attend an execution. Paul would like to evict him, but has no permission to do so.

All the guards – except Percy – strive for the most humane possible end for the prisoners and treat them with respect. In the death row, the simple yet cheerful Eduard ‘Del’ Delacroix (Michael Jeter) and the quiet Native American Arlen Bitterbuck (Graham Greene) await their doomsday. One day, a new convict is brought in. This gigantic John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) looks more dangerous than he is, even though he’s on trial for the rape and murder of two young girls. He was found with the two bodies in his arms, so there was nothing to complain about on evidence. However, Paul soon discovers that John is very different from what he imagined. This giant is goodness itself; calm, friendly and docile. While Percy takes pleasure in tormenting the inmates, Paul and the others gently try to bond with them. It is precisely this attitude that Paul discovers that something very special is going on in The Green Mile. John Coffey turns out to have powers he never thought possible.

Like ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, ‘The Green Mile’ is a film that is largely supported by the actors. Tom Hanks is perfect for the role of the sympathetic protagonist, through whose eyes we see the story. Doug Hutchison convincingly plays the role of bigoted jellyfish – the man we love to hate. Sam Rockwell is allowed to indulge himself as a deranged, completely unhinged criminal and James Cromwell portrays prison director Hal Moores in a charming and dignified way. There are beautiful supporting roles for Harry Dean Stanton as the guinea pig during the practice sessions with the electric chair, Bonnie Hunt as Paul’s wife Jan and Patricia Clarkson as Hal’s terminally ill wife. Most impressive, however, is the performance of Michael Clarke Duncan, who moves as John Coffey and makes the audience suffer with him. It is also refreshing to see that the guards (except for Percy) treat the prisoners humanely, although it must be said that most of the convicts do not tell us what they have done and it is therefore easier to feel sympathy for them. Halfway through the film is a disturbing scene that delicately exposes the inhumane nature of the death penalty – in this case using the electric chair. The events in ‘The Green Mile’ are fictional, but what we are shown in that scene is based on true eyewitness accounts.

‘The Green Mile’ is a powerful film with a beautiful underlying message that will move many to tears. The characters are given every opportunity to present themselves and to develop and are portrayed excellently without exception. Darabont therefore focuses more on its characters than on the plot, which means that the viewer sees some events coming well in advance. Is that annoying? Often yes, but fortunately not in the case of ‘The Green Mile’. The (central) characters are so captivating and the miracle that takes place before our eyes is so intense that the predictability of the plot hardly matters. Even the more than 180 (!) minutes that the story takes to make its point are easy to condone. You can also forgive King and Darabont for the symbolism that is sometimes a bit too thick (because does John Coffey not strongly remind you of a historical figure with the same initials?). The emotional impact this supernatural drama has is so enormous that you forgive ‘The Green Mile’ all its shortcomings with love.

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English Reviews

Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

Directed by: Chris Weitz | 121 minutes | drama, adventure, romance, fantasy | Actors: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Bronson Pelletier, Alex Meraz, Kiowa Gordon, Billy Burke, Chaske Spencer, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lefevre, Michael Sheen, Christopher Heyerdahl, Charlie Bewley, Daniel Cudmore, Dakota Fanning, Graham Greene, Anna Kendrick, Michael Welch, Christian Serratos, Gil Birmingham, Tinsel Korey, Noot Seear, Tyson Houseman, Cameron Bright, Justine Wachsberger, Jamie Campbell Bower, Justin Chon, Hugo Steele

What could be better for a teenage girl than being lusted after by a handsome, mysterious, dangerous man? Be desired by two handsome, mysterious, dangerous men! You have to hand it to the Twilight creator Stephenie Meyer: she knows her target group like the back of her hand and in ‘New Moon’ she is catered for. Two worshipers for the price of one; for swooning fans, it’s a luxury issue, but Bella has a hard time dealing with it. Will she stay loyal to the enchanting but absent Edward or will she pick eggs for her money in the form of Jacob, the childhood friend with whom it is so nice to snuggle? And what if it turns out that he isn’t as cuddly as he seems? She also seeks them out, that Bella, with a vampire as a lover and a werewolf as a best friend.

Just like ‘Twilight’, ‘New Moon’ works well as a youth drama. As befits a teenager, Bella goes through a rough patch when Edward leaves her. The tragedy is overblown thanks to Robert Pattinson’s pained gaze and Kristen Stewart’s sure-footed teenage manners, but before the misery reaches the irritating limit, the much sunnier and more accessible Jacob (a fun role by Taylor Lautner) gives the story a welcome boost. Actually, the relationship between Bella and Jacob is much more interesting than the relationship between Bella and Edward. “Sometimes you have to learn to love things that are good for you,” Bella’s father remarks when she returns refreshed from an afternoon of motorcycle jobs. But then again, for a young girl, warm friendship pales in comparison to everything scorching passion.

As a horror spectacle ‘New Moon’ does not turn out so well. The two storylines that are supposed to provide the film with blood both bleed to death. The first revolves around the vampire Victoria, who seeks revenge after the death of her life partner. The scene in which she is chased by Jacob and his companions is a picture, with that dancing red head of hair against that green spruce landscape, but the werewolf effects are disappointing, the twists and turns are sought and it doesn’t get really exciting. This also applies to the storyline around Edward, who after a weak bit of confusion of tongues gets so upset that he wants to be executed by a vampire tribunal. This Volturi doesn’t pose any threat due to the unfortunate casting, and the attempt to introduce an Anne Rice-esque mythology is really just a distraction.

However, the normally rather passive Bella now finally gets the chance to step into the breach for her beloved. However, it takes tricks such as a broken cell phone to chase her into the plane and they arouse annoyance. People are not averse to tricks in ‘New Moon’ anyway. Lautner gained 15 pounds of muscle for his werewolf role, which may explain why Jacob Bella graciously offers his t-shirt as a swab for the bleeding. Where do you find them, such men? In Forks, Washington apparently. The men of Jacob’s Indian tribe prefer to leave the chest uncovered, even when the rain falls from the sky in thick drops. Werewolves have a higher body temperature. We also like one, but when you hear all the ladies in the room gasping for breath, you have to admit that those torsos on display are absolutely functional.

It must be strange if ‘New Moon’ is not to be as successful as ‘Twilight’. All the ingredients are there: a lot of unfulfilled desire, a touch of danger, a touch of humor, the natural beauty of North America (teenage girls can take the term natural beauty broadly) and three protagonists who look nice on a t-shirt. Not bad if you’re a real fan, but for less seasoned Twi-hards, there’s nothing new under the moon.

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English Reviews

Review: Thunderheart (1992)

Thunderheart (1992)

Directed by: Michael Apted | 114 minutes | thriller | Actors: Val Kilmer, Sam Shepard, Graham Greene, Fred Ward, Sheila Tousey, Ted Thin Elk, John Trudell, Julius Drum, Allan RJ Joseph, Fred Dalton Thomas, Sarah Brave, Sylvan Pumpkin Seed, Patrick Massett, Rex Linn, Brian A O’Meara, Duane Brewer, Lewis C. Bradshaw, Dennis Banks, Candy Hamilton, Jerome Mack, Tom M. LeBeau, Bridgit P. Schock, Terry Graber, David Crosby

Ever heard of the movie ‘Thunderheart’? New? Not surprising, because many people are not aware of the existence of this title. Wrongly, by the way, because ‘Thunderheart’ is worth every effort despite the small production. ‘Any’ effort, because following the intelligent, fast-paced plot requires all your attention. ‘Thunderheart’ mainly revolves around the conflict between the Indians and the American government. FBI Agent Ray Levoi is sent under the Sensitive Operations Unit to the Badlands, South Dakota to solve a murder of an Indian. The murder appears to have been committed by Jimmy Looks Twice, a member of the Aboriginal Rights Movement. The ARM does commit more attacks and murders. Indians are the victims here; so a civil war. At least that’s what Frank Coutelle, Jack Milton and his GOONs (Guardians Of the Oglala Nation) would have you believe. Close contact with Walter Crow Horse and other Indians draws Ray closer to the truth, a truth that also puts him in danger.

The plot of ‘Thunderheart’ is based on true events in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the mid-1970s. In his 1992 documentary ‘Incident at Oglala’, director Michael Apted recounts the experiences he had while exploring this area during the years. 70 visited. Themes such as the discovery of uranium, disease among the Indians from irradiated water and the ongoing struggle between the Indians and the GOONs are described in his documentary. It also reveals the FBI’s support for the GOONs by supplying weapons. The character Jimmy Looks Twice is based on Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who was falsely accused of the murder of two FBI agents during this time. It’s strange when you consider that these things have been nothing but the stark reality. At the same time it releases a kind of guilt, a feeling of guilt towards the original inhabitants of America. Not for nothing was ‘Thunderheart’ twice nominated for a PFS (Political Film Society) Award in 1993, one of which was nominated in the category ‘Human rights’. Another important theme in the film: Ray Levoi’s inner struggle. Ray, a fast boy FBI agent, has built up an impressive track record. He is a quarter blood Sioux Indian. However, he buried that lineage together with his father, who drank himself to death before his eyes. Precisely because of his origin, he is chosen to solve a number of murders in the Indian reservation. His Sioux background should make contact with the Indians easier, but nothing could be further from the truth. Ray, out of shame, takes a superior and arrogant attitude towards the Indians.

Chewing gum and covering his eyes with a thick Ray-Ban, he makes his way through the investigation. Contact with the Indians is difficult, but it is the same Indians that make Ray doubt his opinion about his origin. Is it his origin that he has to oppose? The inner struggle is beautiful, partly due to excellent acting by Val Kilmer, who plays the role of Ray Levoi excellently. Funny detail: Kilmer is a quarter-blood Cherokee himself. Sam Shepard as Frank Coutelle and Graham Greene as Walter Crow Horse also play their roles well. Perhaps most notable is the acting performance of Ted Thin Elk, who debuts in the film industry at the age of 72 as Grandpa Reaches and does so with verve. It is the same Ted Thin Elk, among others, who makes ‘Thunderheart’ the film it is: a film with a slightly mystical, oppressive atmosphere. It’s hard to name one thing that creates this vibe, but at least Ted Thin Elk has a part in it. In addition, it is a combination of the setting, the music and the story situations such as flashbacks, dreams and visions. Especially the music by two-time Oscar winner James Horner (‘Titanic’) contributes a lot to that mystical atmosphere. Furthermore, it is the society of the Indians that still has something mysterious to us, because in general we are not or hardly familiar with this culture. In summary, the atmosphere is one that will stay with us for a while.

‘Thunderheart’ is mistakenly a forgotten film. The story is based on true events: the exploitation and injustice of a population group. The film has all the facets a good thriller needs. The exciting, intelligent plot and the pace of the film ensure that you remain captivated until the climax. It is also the atmosphere that contributes to this and that you will remember the film for a long time to come. ‘Thunderheart’ is definitely worth watching; several times too…