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Review: Oink (2022)

Oink (2022)

Directed by: Mascha Halberstad | 72 minutes | animation, family | Original voice cast: Hiba Ghafry, Kees Prins, Matsen Montsma, Jelka van Houten, Henry van Loon, Loes Luca, Johnny Kraaijkamp, ​​Alex Klaasen, Remko Vrijdag

Every child wants to try a pet at some point. So is Babs (Hiba Ghafry), preferably a puppy. Mother Margreet (Jelka van Houten) and father Nol (Henry van Loon) have to sleep on it for a few nights because their daughter can be quite impulsive. Then grandpa Tuitjes (Kees Prins), who suddenly arrives at the family’s doorstep all the way from America, gives Babs a piglet as a present for her ninth birthday. Babs is immediately in love and calls him Oink. Mother is a lot less pleased with Grandpa and Piglet. She is especially afraid of intruders in her vegetable garden. After all, the family is (self-sufficient!) vegetarian from head to toe. And Margreet doesn’t like that the present comes from her father, who is in fact absent. Grandpa has to stay in the garden house for the time being and Piglet can only stay if he doesn’t eat the vegetable garden or if he poops everything. Together with her good friend Tijn (Matsen Montsma), Babs tries to wash this pig.

By the way, Babs thinks grandpa Tuitjes is a strange fellow and has to get used to his accent, the cowboy hat and the banjo game by moonlight. Moreover, he is quite secretive about a large suitcase he brought with him. Grandpa himself does not care about all kinds of social hassles and the standard greenery on the dining table. In fact, he didn’t just come back to hook up with the family. After decades of absence, he also wants to create a furore at the sausage competition of the Association for Meat Products of Fresh Pigs.

If there’s one thing you don’t get from ‘Own’, it’s grumpy. What a party number! This homegrown animation film is based on the book ‘The Revenge of Knor’ by Tosca Menten. Writer Menten had not expected in her wildest dreams that this would be the result of the collaboration. Yet Menten clearly lies at the origin of the humorous and playful look at complex subjects for the everyday family. What do you actually eat when you eat meat; a father who suddenly leaves home and hearth; dog training for pigs and jokes about poop of course.

Director Mascha Halberstad has earned her stripes in the animation world with, among other things, several short films, a video clip for the band The Prodigy, and the TV series ‘Fox and Hare’ (2018 – …). ‘Own’ seems to be the culmination of the work so far. Her first feature film is both a crafty book adaptation and a visual feat. Sometimes it is also reminiscent of a plump Dutch grandnephew of ‘Fantastic Mister Fox’ (Wes Anderson, 2009); ‘Knor’ is more comical, flatter and more direct than many youth films. The poop jokes do not predominate but there is always room for them. The ensuing slight anarchy is enjoyable for anyone over the age of six. The voice actors also visibly enjoy the material. Especially Kees Prins and Loes Luca (the gruff aunt Christine) go wild on the playful (under)tone. Plus, ‘Own’ is full of mischievous movie references, including to ‘ET’ (Steven Spielberg, 1982) and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (George Miller, 2017) (note the tractor scenes!). Following the stop-motion masters of Aardman Animations (‘Wallace & Gromit’, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ et cetera.), Halberstad and her animation team have transformed the tangible clay into something very lively and touching on screen without going on the sentimental tour. They can compete with the best in the genre.

Every now and then the stop motion seems sluggish, as on a late summer day. This is anything but disturbing and strongly supports the dry humor and thoughtful view on social themes. And although the current state of affairs in the meat industry is neither fish nor meat, the film is not grumbling about it in terms of moralism. Could the story perhaps go deeper into certain matters such as the disappearance of grandfather Tuitjes from the life of daughter Margreet? Absolutely no man overboard here, enough wealth and perhaps it is an idea for a spectacular sequel.

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English Reviews

Review: Housewives Don’t Exist 2 (2019)

Housewives Don’t Exist 2 (2019)

Directed by: Aniëlle Webster | 105 minutes | comedy | Actors: Jelka van Houten, Eva van de Wijdeven, Loes Luca, Leo Alkemade, Kay Greidanus, Leopold Witte, Jim Bakkum, Fred van Leer, Tina de Bruin, Henry van Loon, Patrick Martens, Robert de Hoog, Leny Breederveld

Among the piles of romantic comedies that are released annually in our country, ‘Housewives don’t exist’ (2017) stood out in a positive way two years ago. Not because the story was so brilliantly put together or original, but because of the appealing characters who struggled with issues that all women have (had) to deal with. Recognition was the great asset, in addition to the strong acting by leading actresses Jelka van Houten, Loes Luca and Eva van de Wijdeven. The film was based on ‘The Housewife Monologues’, the 2013 novel by writer and columnist Sylvia Witteman – who, incidentally, did not receive the credits on the credits – which Rick Engelkes translated to first the theater and later the silver screen. And now there’s ‘Housewives Don’t Exist 2’ (2019), not so much a sequel but a film that follows the same three women in their everyday existence, only now a few years later. The screenplay is again by Richard Kemper (‘Veldhuis & Kemper’) and the director is Aniëlle Webster, who was also responsible for the first film and who has had a busy year; two months ago, another Dutch romkom directed by her was released, ‘Wat is then Liefde’ (2019).

In ‘Pets do not exist 2′ we can once again take a look at the life of flower power mother Loes (Loes Luca) and her daughters Marjolein (Jelka van Houten) and Gijsje (Eva van de Wijdeven). Loes also has (young) male attention not to complain but is starting to get a little tired of tinder. The generation gap with boys like Boy (Robert de Hoog), who is at least half as young, is now really noticeable and Loes is actually beginning to long for someone her own age. When Bernd (Leopold Witte), a self-help book writer and self-proclaimed life coach, crosses her path, she’s sold. Gijsje is now the mother of a son, but is still a perfectionist and ambitious. She has her boyfriend Jasper (Kay Greidanus) firmly under her thumb and she is also in control of the advertising agency where she works. Her agency appears to be in the running for an important award and that only puts Gijsje on edge. But whether her environment is so happy about that…? Marjolein happily dabbles with her three children and her blog about life as a housewife and mother. However, she gets upset when she reads mysterious messages from a woman on her husband’s phone. Is her Huib (Leo Alkemade) having an affair? The fire in their relationship has cooled down quite a bit, so she first tries to stoke things up with exciting (but rather complicated) lingerie and sex toys, but that only backfires. So she decides to follow Huib. What she then finds does not make her happy to say the least…

We all just do whatever, that’s the underlying motto of ‘Housewives don’t exist’ (both part 1 and part 2!). It’s about women who look like ourselves, or someone we know. Women who try to keep all balls high, who run a family and a household, who also work (and want to be taken seriously in their work), who want to be there for their partner, family and friends. There must also be exercised in between and that all has to be done with a smile. ‘Housewives don’t exist 2’ doesn’t make fun of it, but holds up a mirror to women: see yourself slogging and struggling. One (Gijsje) desperately tries to maintain the perfect picture (certainly towards the outside world), the other (Marjolein) has long since let go of that ideal image and is bumbling through life. And Loes, who always led a licentious life, comes to the realization that in retrospect she might have done things differently. These are women who could have been your neighbor. They are also played wonderfully by Van de Wijdeven, Van Houten and Luca. Van Houten in particular is on a roll; she has the best one-liners and is great at shooting herself. In these kinds of roles, she is certainly not inferior to her famous older sister Carice. The supporting roles are also nicely filled in, with Alkemade as the sometimes somewhat silly Huib and Fred van Leer and Patrick Martens as a gay couple befriended by Marjolein, who makes a crucial contribution in the final act. In even smaller roles we see Henry van Loon, Jim Bakkum, Tina de Bruin, Leny Breederveld, Sabri Saad El-Hamus and screenwriter Richard Kemper, among others.

‘Housewives don’t exist 2’ doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel and is occasionally guilty of trite jokes (the situation with the sex toy, for example, was not necessary), but just like the first part, this film also offers a celebration of recognition for women in general and mothers in particular. Realistic characters, portrayed by three outstanding actresses. Let yourself be dragged into the lives of Marjolein, Loes and Gijsje and worry and wrestle with them. Just the realization that you are not the only one who is always and eternally looking for peace, overview and balance in your life is a reassuring realization!

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English Reviews

Review: The Lovers (2019)

The Lovers (2019)

Directed by: Anna van der Heide | 96 minutes | drama | Actors: Jeroen Krabbé, Hadewych Minis, Theo Maassen, Beppie Melissen, Sanne Samina Hanssen, Rebecca de Nooijer, Jelka van Houten, Guy Clemens, Linde van der Storm, Aiko Beemsterboer, Bas Keizer

Who has never wanted to put their family behind the wallpaper? This universal feeling is the theme of the film ‘The Lovers’ by Anna van der Heide. Family: you can’t live without them, no matter how much you want to.

‘The Lovers’ is about the Lover family, consisting of parents Jan and Lea and children Jonathan, Sam, Kasper and Maria (all aged between 34 and 42). Father Jan has early Alzheimer’s and only told his children about it after a while. This puts pressure on family relationships and makes everyone face their own unresolved problems. The film is therefore not so much a story about illness but more about family.

The strongest point of ‘The Lovers’ is the great cast, including Jeroen Krabbé, Theo Maassen and Hadewych Minis. Piece by piece, all cast members create believable characters with recognizable feelings. Krabbé is the strict father who wants the best for his children and who likes to be in control. He deliberately did not inform his children immediately about his illness. In addition, Krabbé makes Jan a man who is also still searching for what exactly the disease will bring, which naturally leads to anger and incomprehension. Maassen is the eldest son; an introverted sensitive surgeon. He wants to help his father but never really gets close enough. And so all characters are strong, although it would take too long to name them all.

And that is immediately a point of criticism of the film: there are too many Lovers. There are six storylines (seven if you include Laura by marriage) and that’s actually too many to really get to the core of a character. Now director Anna van der Heide (‘Master Frog’) is just scratching the surface, while the characters and the film deserve more depth. The viewer develops sympathy for the characters and wants to know and feel more. Now it feels too quickly like “And then everything was (almost) good again”. That is a shame, especially considering that the film is not very long at 96 minutes. Perhaps an extra half hour could have provided a little more depth.

The criticism above is really only a result of the fact that the game is so good and the themes in the story are so recognizable. In the best families the underlying problems come to light as soon as the pressure is on, and ‘De Lief950’ is no different. Because everything is now passing by at high speed, the end feels a bit sweet, despite of course that a lot has not yet been solved. But ‘The Lovers’ is a recognizable story with fantastic actors and a must for anyone who has a family.

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Review: The Ugly Children’s Club (2019)

The Ugly Children’s Club (2019)

Directed by: Jonathan Elbers | 95 minutes | action, adventure, family | Actors: Sem Hulsmann, Maan de Steenwinkel, Narek Awanesyan, Faye Kimmijser, Jeroen van Koningsbrugge, Jelka van Houten, Roeland Fernhout, Georgina Verbaan, Katja Schuurman, Edwin Jonker

Rhyme, sound and meter; writer Koos Meinderts likes to play with language. De Haheden writes for both children and adults. He also became known for the stories, poems and songs he wrote with his good friend, comedian Harrie Jekkers. Many of these have been performed by Jekkers, solo or with his band Klein Orkest. The album ‘Escalator to the moon’ was awarded an Edison in 1985 and for the song ‘Back at af’ the duo received the Annie MG Schmidt prize for best Dutch song of the year in 1991. Meinderts has also been awarded several times for his books; for example, he received both a Golden and a Silver Granger for ‘To the North’. One of his best-known children’s books is ‘The Club of Ugly Children’ from 1987, the oldest book of his hand that is still in print. ‘The Ugly Children’s Club’ has since been adapted into a play, musical and film. In 2012, students from the Film Academy, including Jonathan Elbers, made a twenty-minute short film that was broadcast in the TV program [email protected], and seven years later there is a full-length feature film. A number of the stars from the short version – Roeland Fernhout, Katja Schuurman – can also be seen in the cinema film, which was also directed by Elbers.

In ‘The Club of Ugly Children’ (2019), the country is burdened by the dictatorship of President Isimo (Roeland Fernhout), who wants to keep the country clean, but takes it very far. One day he decides to pick up all the ugly children – under the guise of a ‘school trip’ – and put them in a camp. Paul de Wit (Sem Hulsmann) is also taken along. He is not necessarily ugly, but has huge floppy ears and therefore does not fit into the ideal picture that Isimo is striving for. But Paul manages to escape just before the bus reaches the camp. He cannot return home, because the Uberkliener (Edwin Jonker) is after him. Moreover, Paul’s father Filidoor (Jeroen van Koningsbrugge) is one of the most famous TV presenters on state television, who cannot possibly criticize the leader because he is also his boss. Paul finds shelter with classmate Sara (Faye Kimmijser); together they decide to set up the Ugly Children’s Club on the Internet, to support the children who have been taken away and to protest against the president. More and more people are joining the club. Meanwhile, Paul’s mother (Jelka van Houten) and older sister (Maan de Steenwinkel) are campaigning at the government building; will they be able to free the ugly children from the camp?

‘Ugly Children’s Club’ discusses a solid theme in a light-hearted way. It becomes clear in the first few minutes that Isimo is no good. The parallels with dictatorial regimes that really existed or even still exist (North Korea!) are not to be missed, especially for mature viewers: the deportation of people who look slightly different, the grim atmosphere, the ‘klieners’ who hunt for stragglers. Isimo’s followers even have a kind of Nazi salute (“Keep it clean!”) and move with tight heads in sterile, futuristic-looking buildings. Visibly a lot of attention has been paid to the look of the film with effectively used industrial buildings, and that pays off. There is reasonable acting; the young protagonists are supported by experienced colleagues, such as Jelka van Houten, Roeland Fernhout and Jeroen van Koningsbrugge. Familiar heads can also be seen in smaller roles: Katja Schuurman and Georgina Verbaan are among the president’s entourage, presenter Ajouad El Miloudi plays Paul and Sara’s teacher, comedian Soundos El Ahmadi is a colleague of Paul’s father, Mimoun Ouled Radi is the father of one of the other refugee children and the late Peer Mascini plays his very last role here.

After more than thirty years, Koos Meinderts’ story is still rock solid. Although it is immediately clear which way will be followed, ‘The Club of Ugly Children’ shows itself an entertaining film, made with great care and attention, which mainly impresses visually.

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Review: Manou at the seagull school – Manou the Swift (2019)

Manou at the seagull school – Manou the Swift (2019)

Directed by: Christian Haas, Andrea Block | 89 minutes | animation, adventure | Dutch voice cast: Nasrdin Dchar, Jelka van Houten, Leopold Witte, Cystine Carreon, Sander Gillis, Rogier Komproe, Yaron Mesika

‘Storks’ (2016), ‘Rikkie the stork’ (2017), ‘Pluisje: dare to fly’ (2018). When you see this title in a row, you can’t help but conclude that birds are currently ‘hot’ in animation land. Later this summer ‘Duck Duck Goose’ (2018) will be released and now there is ‘Manou op de seagull school’ (2019). There are quite a few parallels to be drawn between the different stories. Just like in ‘Rikkie the stork’, ‘Manou at the seagull school’ also revolves around a bird that grows up with a different species. Manou is a young swallow who, after the tragic death of his parents, ends up in a seagull’s nest. Yves, the leader of the gull colony, and his wife Blanche struggle to lay their own eggs and welcome Manou as their own child. Not much later, the family is still expanded, when Luc is born. So far nothing wrong. Manou learns everything you need to learn as a young gull, although he does have some difficulties with a number of things. Swallows naturally flutter their wings more than seagulls, which allow themselves to be carried by the wind. And Manou doesn’t like water at all, so the swimming lessons are quite dramatic. It helps that his father leads the seagull school and regularly keeps his hand above his head. During the flying competition Manou gets the chance to prove himself; he outsmarts all the seagulls and that makes him deputy colony leader. But with the responsibility that comes with it comes the necessary difficulties. Things go wrong while guarding the eggs: the rats steal an egg and Manou is held responsible for this and is ostracized from the group. He seeks connection with the swallows, led by the beautiful Kalifa, but that is not without a struggle, so he makes it his mission to fight for more tolerance and cooperation between the bird species. They need each other more than ever.

So many species, so many character traits. Perhaps that makes birds a popular and interesting subject for animation filmmakers. ‘Manou op de gullsschool’ is the first animation film from the German Luxx Studios, a company that specializes in visual effects and has produced work for films such as ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (2013) and ‘Independance Day 2: Resurgence’ ( 2016). With that knowledge in mind, it’s no surprise that the visuals in ‘Manou op de gulls school’ – or at least the backgrounds – look really fantastic. The story is set somewhere on the southern French coast; we know that without being told, purely because the characteristic atmosphere of the sea, fishing villages and boulevards speaks from all sides of the animation. The landscape is sketched in an almost photo-realistic way. The contrast with the somewhat simplified bird figures is great. The gulls and swallows are much more crude and caricatured, not to mention the evil rats and the comically intended ‘sidekick’ Parcival, an overgrown Brazilian guinea fowl who escaped the eye of the market trader and has since been on the local market. graveyard lives. They are so exaggerated that it looks like they don’t belong in an otherwise hyper-realistic setting. Not just the characters, but the story as well. Of course, the call for more tolerance is very important to pass on to the youthful target group, we can’t object to that. Nevertheless, too little creativity has been used to shape this message. The dialogues lack a certain urgency; of many scenes we have no idea what purpose they serve. Take, for example, the – incidentally beautifully filmed – flying competition between the young gulls; it takes a while before we realize the importance associated with this, and that scene does not stand alone. Also the use of the music is not always effective and here and there even disturbing.

Young viewers will undoubtedly enjoy ‘Manou op de gulls school’, an animated film that is certainly not bad, but which could (and should) have done a lot more in terms of originality, coherence and effectiveness. And no matter how young they may be, children will also wonder whether they have not already seen this film, because the parallels with films such as ‘Rikkie the stork’ and ‘Pluisje’ are not to be missed.

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Review: Baantjer: The beginning (2019)

Baantjer: The beginning (2019)

Directed by: Arne Toonen | 111 minutes | action, crime | Actors: Waldemar Torenstra, Tygo Gernandt, Lisa Smit, Fedja van Huêt, Robert de Hoog, Jelka van Houten, Ruben van der Meer, Horace Cohen, Guido den Broeder, Peter Bolhuis, Ryanne van Dorst, Loes Luca, Mads Wittermans, Bas Keijzer Tim Murck, Lindsay Zwaan, Wing Poon, Peter Rene, Niels Nijsmans, Jorn Pronk

If there’s one thing that’s been on the rise in the film world in recent years, it’s the origin story. People apparently need more depth from their heroes. It’s nice to learn how the development of their beloved character has gone. Batman, Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, the X-Men, we’ve all been able to see them all in their younger days, which helps us understand the character even better. So it’s a good idea to give Dutch favorite detective, De Cock, some background. Director Arne Toonen set to work with the screenplay written by Willem Bosch, Carl Joos and Thijs Römer and cast Waldemar Torenstra in the lead role.

‘Baantjer het Begin’ is set around the coronation of Princess Beatrix in the spring of 1980. Thirty-year-old Jurre de Cock has successfully applied for a position at the Warmoesstraat police station in Amsterdam. He is paired up with seasoned police officer Tonnie Montijn (Tygo Gernandt) and while the two get along, they are diametrically opposed in terms of how the job should be done. De Cock is brimming with ambition and good intentions, Montijn likes to make things as easy as possible for himself and has acquaintances and friends everywhere, including in the Amsterdam underworld.

According to their boss, the chance of an attack during the coronation is very high and all agents must do everything they can to ensure that the ceremonies run smoothly. But the overzealous De Cock discovers a corpse in the canal, creating a snowball effect. Although the traces point to a large drug trade and that is actually not that much of a priority right before the coronation, the two detectives manage to investigate the case further.

‘Baantjer the beginning’ looks away wonderfully. The film is smooth and dynamic and the atmosphere is very well struck. You immediately imagine yourself in the Amsterdam of the eighties, whether or not you consciously experienced that period. The city is filthy and infested with drug addicts, whore runners and squatters. The film is based on the tension between De Cock and Montijn and there are hardly any other actors in these roles: Waldemar Torenstra has exactly the right appearance; you immediately believe that he wants to improve the world and will do anything for it. However, he is not dull and good, because when Tonnie’s sister Pien comes into the picture, De Cock shows himself from a different side. Tygo Gernandt is also excellently cast. He plays a character (always dressed in Bill Cosby-esque sweaters and with a bold accent) who, thanks to his charm, easily wraps you around his fingers, while at the same time you have the feeling that he doesn’t show the back of his tongue. Can you trust him?

Unfortunately, ‘Baantjer het begin’ loses focus a bit in the last part, but the film nevertheless remains fascinating. With this reboot, Baantjer is ready to engage a new generation. The original TV series (based on the books by Appie Baantjer) ran for no less than twelve seasons. It remains to be seen whether the cast and crew will want to stay connected to this project for that long, but if the announced series is as entertaining as this film, the audience will certainly be happy to watch it.

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Review: Summer Heat (2008)

Director: Monique van de Ven | 96 minutes | drama | Actors: Sophie Hilbrand, Waldemar Torenstra, Jeroen Willems, Johan Leysen, Cees Geel, Jelka van Houten, Jochum ten Haaf, Gijs Naber, André Arend van de Noord, Giam Kwee, Bert Luppes, Rik van de Westelaken, Matteo van der Grijn, Peter van Bokhorst, Sarah Jonker, Maartje van de Wetering, Hilbert Dijkstra, Ronald Top, Lidewij Benus

Monique van de Ven knows better than anyone that a good start is half done. The actress had a dazzling debut in the Wolkers film ‘Turks Fruit’ (1973), now an undisputed classic that is seen by an entire generation as the best that Dutch cinema has ever produced.

It will not be a coincidence that Van de Ven also chose a work by Wolkers, who passed away in 2007, for her (full-length) directorial debut. In ‘Zomerhitte’ a number of characteristic Wolkers motifs – sex, nature, artistry – are integrated in a love drama and crime story. Unfortunately, the love drama turns out to be unoriginal and the crime plot is incoherent, unbelievable and anything but exciting. Plus, it contains just about every crime cliché you can think of, and despite an attempt at modern slang (‘don’t fuck me’), the crooks aren’t the kind you’d expect in a 2008 movie. No troubling criminals like in ‘Van God Los’, but sketchy characters who only betray their profession by the continuous waving of pistols.

The sex in ‘Zomerhitte’ does not cause cheerfulness either. In the boundless and oversexed internet age, where every good citizen can be a porn star thanks to home video and webcam, many directors opt for explicit sex or no sex at all. Summer heat takes a middle course. A lot of nudity, a lot of dirty talk, a lot of groans, but nothing that we haven’t seen a hundred times before. What was exciting in the 70s and in the following decades at most mischievous, at the beginning of the 21st century mainly caused delay and boredom.

Against these flaws (where you can also count the soapy dialogues) there are only a few bright spots, including the acting of Sophie Hilbrand and Waldemar Torenstra. In addition, the viewer, like main character Bob, remains in the dark for a long time as to who of the characters can be trusted and who cannot. This uncertainty means that sitting out ‘Summer Heat’ is not a challenge.

Nevertheless, the directorial debut of Monique van de Ven does not leave a great impression. You can expect more from a film called ‘Zomerhitte’ than the lukewarm bite that we are served here.

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Review: Distant Friends (2010)

Directed by: Marleen Jonkman | 50 minutes | drama, short film | Actors: Leny Breederveld, Jelka van Houten, Ceci Chuh, Dragan Bakema, Melody Klaver, Mutaleni Nadimi, Kuno Bakker, Mattijs Jansen, Nelson van Ewijk, Casper Knipscheer, Lennaerd Renwarin, Annet Saatrube, Destiny Wegman, Esperanza Groen, Don Groen, Zoë Harriford-McLaren, Jamal Narraina, Mohammed Boubaouch, Mohammed Akrah, Anouar El Ghali, Joska Kruijssen, Mounir Kramti, Mary Louise Moher, Derek Crump, Renato Zamboni, Thomas den Drijver, Arthur Lieveld, Ilse van de Bar, Mira Voorn

It is a well-known phenomenon in some cities, districts or neighborhoods: knowing your neighbors only superficially. Sometimes you don’t see them for weeks, and then if you meet them briefly when you’re just lugging in the heavy groceries and your child is still whining in the car seat, you don’t have time for a chat. The neighbors usually don’t either, by the way, so it’s just a greeting.

With “Far friends” Marleen Jonkman (based on a screenplay by herself and Janneke Jonkman) sketches a portrait of three women at different stages in their lives. They live very close to each other, but because of their own worries or disinterest they hardly know each other. The oldest of the three is the separated Ans (Leny Breederveld). She lives at 23 Javastraat in Amsterdam – for the pilgrims among you: this One Night Stand was actually recorded there, at least for the outdoor scenes – and works as a receptionist in a hotel. Her daughter Felicity (Melody Klaver) has been out of the house for some time now, so she decided to rent out her room. The tenant’s name is Lise. For reasons still unknown, she came from Germany to live in the Netherlands for a while. Either way, long enough to sign up for a language course. Lise is young, lonely, but also friendly and helpful. She carries a secret. Finally, we meet Ans and Lise’s neighbor, Machteld, who just turned 35 and ended up in a kind of midlife crisis. Dissatisfied with her relationship with the sweet, but somewhat pushy Thomas (Dragan Bakema), she is mainly looking. But to what? Does she want a child or is she looking for the opposite of stability?

In “Distant friends” there is strong acting. The three main actresses impress with their natural acting. Melody Klaver and Dragan Bakema are also good at their small roles. In addition to the excellent work of the cast, the film is also visually a picture: the cast is captured in beautiful close-ups, where the underlying emotions become clear, and in artistic frameworks, sometimes in particularly bright (sun) light. Very nice. There is an excellent exchange between the stories of the three women, so that the viewer remains stimulated. The addition of the seemingly meaningless scenes in the street contribute to the inspiring feeling that the film conveys: there is a story in every person.

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Review: Housewives Don’t Exist (2017)

Housewives Don’t Exist (2017)

Directed by: Aniëlle Webster | 103 minutes | comedy | Actors: Eva van de Wijdeven, Jelka van Houten, Kay Greidanus, Jim Bakkum, Leo Alkemade, Loes Luca, Waldemar Torenstra, Fred van Leer, Richard Kemper

Exploding laundry baskets, changing beds, children’s treats and sick husbands; just a few subjects discussed in ‘De Huisvrouwmonologen’, the 2013 novel by columnist Sylvia Witteman. For many women with a family and a job, it is a feast of recognition. Not long after the book was published, Rick Engelkes (Doctor Simon from ‘Good times, bad times’) adapted the story into the eponymous – and very successful – theater performance. And now there is a film, ‘Housewives don’t exist’ (2017), also produced by Engelkes, based on a screenplay by comedian Richard Kemper (the one by Veldhuis & Kemper). Curiously enough, Witteman’s name is nowhere mentioned on the poster, while it is really the housewives she has created who are central. And let the characters be the funniest aspect in this comedy directed by Aniëlle Webster (‘Mees Kees along the line’, 2016).

Loes (Loes Luca) has always led a riotous life; men came and went, she liked to let money flow and she left the care of her daughters mainly to her mother. Now that she’s over sixty, she still lives that way. But the bottom of the well is quickly coming into view: the house in which she lives is under water and the bailiffs are at the door. Not that Loes is going to worry right away. Her now grown daughters Marjolein (Jelka van Houten) and Gijsje (Eva van de Wijdeven) do that for her. However, they have their own problems. The chaotic Marjolein is married to Huib (Leo Alkemade) and mother of three growing children. She also works as a journalist for a regional newspaper. Or well, worked. Because the film has barely started when Marjolein is fired. She has no choice but to temporarily focus entirely on the role of a housewife and now go to the activities of her children at school. But the life of a housewife is not so easy. Gijsje has her life in perfect order: she has a dear boyfriend (Kay Greidanus) and a good job at an advertising agency, where she has a chance to become a partner if she comes up with the right campaign for a cleaning brand. In addition, partly thanks to her fear of contamination, she always has her house in perfect order: the beds are always made clean and the crumbs are swept up after every bite of food. However, she desperately longs for a baby and that is taking over her life more and more.

The worries of these three women, and their mutual bond, are the common thread in ‘Housewives don’t exist’, a film that does not necessarily excel in originality, but in recognisability. As a viewer, we can look into the lives of Loes, Gijsje and Marjolein and we ended up in situations that are sometimes embarrassing, sometimes hilarious and sometimes painful and confrontational. The humor is mainly due to Jelka van Houten, who seems to have a patent on the role of the average housewife, averse to any form of glamour, but therefore oh so approachable and recognizable for the target group. Don’t we all fear the blunders she makes in the schoolyard, where she previously rarely showed herself because of her job, but where she now has to cope with the perfect model mothers (here portrayed by Victoria Koblenko) and charming fathers (Waldemar Torenstra). As Gijsje, Van de Wijdeven represents a different, very recognizable group of women. In order to fulfill her wish to have children, she works purposefully (but with a towel on the freshly changed sheets). Which by the way leads to the most hilarious scene in the entire film, when she has to look for a jar for her boyfriend’s cum in a rather awkward situation. The film hints that Gijsje’s extremely controlled behavior is a result of her frivolous upbringing, and that there is therefore some resentment towards her mother, but that deeper layer does not really shine through.

‘Housewives don’t exist’ works best as an anthology of what the modern woman experiences in the field of relationships, children, work and family. Of course, here and there a little heavier for the film – Jim Bakkum, as Gijsje’s colleague, takes off his shirt more than once to promote a new cleaning product – but there will be very few women who cannot identify with Loes, Marjolein or Gijsje. The moral of the story is that all those other women do whatever they want, and you just have to laugh at the chaos that our lives usually are. ‘Housewives don’t exist’ has a great asset in the three protagonists, who without any problems alternate the hilarity with sincere emotions and all three convince in their roles. Sure, sometimes it’s over the top, but they get away with it easily. The film may have few surprises in store, but it is certainly entertaining.

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English Reviews

Review: The Emoji Movie – The Emoji Movie (2017)

The Emoji Movie – The Emoji Movie (2017)

Directed by: Tony Leondis | 86 minutes | animation, adventure, comedy, family, science fiction | Dutch voice cast: Arjen Lubach, Jandino Asporaat, Bracha van Doesburgh, Jelka van Houten, Roman Derwig, Patty Brard, Boris van der Ham, Bibi Breijman, Cees Geel | Original voice cast: TJ Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge, Patrick Stewart, Christina Aguilera, Sofía Vergara, Rachael Ray, Sean Hayes, Jake T. Austin, Tati Gabrielle, Jude Kouyate, Jeffery Ross, Hunter March, Tony Leondis, Melissa Sturm

Who doesn’t use them? Emojis: pictures to express thoughts and often the source of confusion (is it a zucchini or something else?). In that tradition, ‘The Emoji Movie’ continues effortlessly, because sometimes the film variant is also difficult to tie up.
The story is about Gene, the meh or mwah emoji. Gene should be expressing indifference, but turns out to have a whole palette of emotions in the house. The mobile in which these Emojis live cannot handle that and so a story follows in which Gene embarks on the adventure while all kinds of external threats come at him. If this seems too basic a description of the film, then it is correct. It is quite difficult to discover a line in the whole.

Gene goes out with Hi5 and Hackie, two other Emojis who carry their own problems with them. For example, Hi5 has trouble with its declining popularity and Hackie wants to escape to the Cloud. All this during a kind of road trip through the mobile of an adolescent Alex, who again has his own storyline. In short: there is enough happening and that is exactly the problem. No motif lasts long enough to become compelling and it is also difficult to recognize the real plot problem. Is it about Gene learning something? Should the entire Emoji community evolve? Does love have to win?

The makers of ‘The Emoji Movie’ have put a lot of time into creating a compelling film world. They all live in Textopolis, which is within the messaging app. In addition to that app, there are others such as Candy Crush, Dropbox and Youtube. Admittedly, there are quite funny finds among them, but that remains at an abstraction level of which the young viewer does not get much. And these finds contribute little to nothing to the plot development. They are nice gimmicks but nothing more than that. The attention that apparently went massively to the form of the film could have been better focused on the content. How do we tell a compelling story with funny useful scenes?

It seems as if the makers were inspired by Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’, only this is not set in an adolescent’s head but in his phone. People could make all kinds of socially critical observations about this, but it does not seem that this is the intention of the makers. It just feels more like cheap, lazy, uninspired stealing that is sometimes, very sometimes funny. Post your poo emoji here.