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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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Review: Neighbor & Neighbor: Baking and grilling (2021)

Neighbor & Neighbor: Baking and grilling (2021)

Directed by: Marek Beneš | 60 minutes | animation, family | Dutch voice cast: Kees Prins, Siem van Leeuwen

Buurman and Buurman are already experiencing their fifth cinema adventure with ‘Buurman & Buurman: Baking and grilling’ (2021). The short films, with ultra-short cutscenes, lend themselves perfectly to the silver screen, as do the previous four films (‘Buurman & Buurman – Best friends for 40 years’ (2015); ‘Buurman & Buurman have a new house!’ (2018) ; ‘Buurman & Buurman: Winter Fun!’ (2018) and ‘Buurman & Buurman are experimenting with it!’ (2019)). The concept hasn’t changed that much: the two neighbors are still super inventive when it comes to coming up with a solution to a problem that would often be obvious to other people.

In ‘Buurman & Buurman: Bakken en grillen’ we see seven films, with the overarching theme of baking and grilling. Like many people in the summer, the neighbors like a nice barbecue, but in the case of Pat and Mat, as the animation heroes are called in their original Czech language, it is less simple than just lighting some coals and the meat on the lay a grid. Ordering a pizza is also a breeze, you might say, but when the pizza gets lost, the neighbors decide that they can easily build a brick oven themselves. In the living room. What could possibly go wrong? The baking part of the title is covered in the stories about baking bread and baking cookies. The neighbors find out that following the recipe ‘off-the-cuff’ leads to a different end result: they die in the bread dough and find a handy destination for all those loaves (which succeed, that is!). The same goes for baking cookies. Their perseverance is commendable.

One of the nicest films is ‘Pneumatic Post’ in which the modus operandi of the two friends is perhaps at its peak. The handy neighbors have to visit each other every once in a while to borrow tools and materials. That should be easier right? However, the basically good idea is ruined by their way of thinking, and while at the end of the film the solution is so obvious, they don’t see it. Well, actually a good thing: because of the crooked thinking of Buurman & Buurman, we are at least assured that the makers still have enough inspiration for subsequent films.

The eye for detail is great again, just like in the previous films: the neighbors’ houses are full of jokes, which makes you curious about the set. How did they put this together? ‘Buurman & Buurman: Baking and grilling’ is funny for young and old – thanks in part to the voices of the trusted Kees Prins and Siem van Leeuwen. The stories remain fun, because the neighbors always choose a different route than you would expect. Wonderful pastime!

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Review: Buurman & Buurman are experimenting on their own! (2019)

Buurman & Buurman are experimenting on their own! (2019)

Directed by: Marek Beneš | 57 minutes | family, animation | Dutch voice cast: Siem van Leeuwen, Kees Prins

Buurman & Buurman are masters of ‘out of the box’ thinking. No problem is too complex for them or they will come up with something. But often it is not the most obvious solution they come up with. In fact, they are sometimes very difficult and complicated. But let that be the charm of the neighbors. The Czech heroes Pat and Mat (as they are actually called) are a creation of Lubomir Beneš, who created the puppet series in 1976. They didn’t always wear their signature hat and beret; in the first episode they were bareheaded and had eyebrows. Mat’s sweater was also once gray, when the color red was sensitive because of the communist regime and gray was neutral. The males are still extremely popular, especially in the Netherlands, the only country where Buurman & Buurman can not only be seen but also heard. The brilliant performances by Siem van Leeuwen and Kees Prins in all their simplicity certainly contribute to the success and popularity of the series. Just like the positive vibe that the neighbors radiate: they always remain calm, respect each other and never argue, even if things get out of hand again and again.

After almost 44 years, new Buurman & Buurman films are still appearing. These are directed by Marek Beneš, Lubomir’s son who died in 1995. The clumsy neighbors have also appeared on the silver screen a number of times. Not with a full-length film, but with a compilation of about seven short films that are all hung on the same theme. And so there is now ‘Buurman & Buurman experimenting on it!’ (2019). The neighbors are always experimenting, so we get a variety of crazy movies fired at us. From something as simple as baking pancakes or preparing popcorn, the neighbors already know how to make a whole situation, which of course gets completely out of hand. When the car needs to be washed, they decide to make their own car wash. But whether that makes the car that much cleaner… An apple thief also tackles the neighbors in their own way: they build a security system around the apple tree. And another one from the category ‘why make it easy when it can be difficult’: Buurman & Buurman decide to assemble a flying machine themselves. Hope it turns out fine…

Of course there is a lot going on in the soup. That is the strength of ‘Buurman & Buurman’, in addition to the hilarious ingenuity of the males and the bone-dry improvised commentary of Van Leeuwen and Prins. Each film follows the same pattern – neighbors encounter a problem, look for a solution in a rather creative way, after which the problem either gets bigger, or gives rise to a new (often much bigger) problem – but that shouldn’t spoil the fun. Because despite that tried and tested recipe, the films are always slightly different. The appeal of ‘Buurman & Buurman’ goes beyond all age limits, because the charm of these figures is universal. Moreover, they convey a valuable message: you can learn from trying and there are no mistakes, only learning moments.

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Review: Neighbor & Neighbor winter fun! – Pat a Mat: Zimní radovánky (2018)

Neighbor & Neighbor winter fun! – Pat a Mat: Zimní radovánky (2018)

Directed by: Marek Benes | 60 minutes | family, animation | Dutch voice cast: Kees Prins, Siem van Leeuwen

A je to! The stop-motion animation characters Buurman and Buurman have been around since 1976 and even though the films have followed a similar pattern all these years – the males encounter a problem and try to solve it in the most innovative but at the same time most clumsy ways – they never get bored. The neighbors are called their own Pat and Mat and were created in the 1970s by the Czech animator Lubomír Beneš. In the then communist Czechoslovakia it was not made easy for him to record films. Pat and Mat were seen by the communist government as “undermining authority” and the fact that Pat wore a yellow jersey and Mat a red one would ridicule the tensions between the Soviet Union and China. The production was even banned for a number of years, but thanks to the support of fellow program makers in Bratislava, a way was found to record new films. To be on the safe side, Mat was given a neutral gray sweater, until communism finally fell in 1989. Over the years, ‘Pat en Mat’ has become an international phenomenon. The original films have no dialogue and appeal to a universal audience. The Netherlands is the only country in the world that provided the males with votes – those of Kees Prins and Siem van Leeuwen – and that partly determines the popularity of ‘Buurman en Buurman’ in our country.

Over the past few years, several ‘Buurman en Buurman’ films have already appeared in cinemas; these are not longer feature films, but collections of short films that are thematically linked. In ‘Buurman & Buurman winterpret’ (2018), as the title suggests, it revolves around winter scenes and the holidays. The neighbors get into trouble with an artificial Christmas tree that just won’t come out of the box, an unwilling piece of wrapping paper and a lost baby Jesus from the nativity scene. When Mat is outside clearing snow, he becomes so overcome by the cold that Pat decides to build him a sauna inside. The males also get snowed in, after which they figure out ways to get rid of the excess snow. Of course their houses have to be decorated for Christmas, but all those wires and plugs of the Christmas lights cause the necessary problems. And then suddenly it is December 31 and the gentlemen are already ready for the big moment in the afternoon. Of course they also have fireworks. And that’s not the only time something catches fire…

The seven films last about eight minutes on average and between each episode there is a teaser of a maximum of fifteen seconds to keep things going. The pattern is always the same, but the films have to rely on the power of repetition and recognisability. They never get bored. The neighbors are so wonderfully optimistic; no matter how things get out of hand and whatever goes wrong, they stay positive and we’ve never seen them angry. These new films are made by Beneš’ son Marek. It can be seen that the males have moved with the times, but the films remain timeless. The fumbling, the clumsiness and the brilliant and idiotic solutions that the little handymen come up with are entertaining for young and old. Despite the simplicity, it is striking how much attention the makers have for detail; the little houses are full of subtle jokes. Because above all, ‘Buurman en Buurman’ remains very funny, thanks in part to the wonderfully dry voices of Prins and Van Leeuwen. ‘Buurman & Buurman winter fun’ is timeless entertainment for young and old!

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Review: Neighbor & Neighbor have a new house! (2018)

Neighbor & Neighbor have a new house! (2018)

Directed by: Marek Beneš | 57 minutes | animation, short film, family, comedy | Dutch voice cast: Kees Prins, Siem van Leeuwen

Who doesn’t know them: the clumsy do-it-yourselfers and neighbours: Buurman en Buurman. The two have been working on their comeback in recent years and as an extension of that they come to the big screen after ‘Buurman & Buurman – Best friends for 40 years’ (2015) with the film ‘Buurman & Buurman have a new home’. In this film, the Neighbors run into all sorts of problems in and around their homes. For example, they suffer from a mole, they get to work to sweep their chimney and build a fence. Of course, this is not without a struggle and that is precisely the unique selling point of these stories.

The film can be judged in two ways. First (and most importantly) through the eyes of the children for whom this film is intended. ‘Buurman & Buurman have a new house’ is exactly what they will expect from a Buurman & Buurman film. They are bunglers, who in the search for a solution make things worse than they were in the first place; there’s plenty of slapstick in it and each story ends with a heartfelt “A je to!” (which is a Czech exclamation and means “That’s it!”). For the viewers, this recognizability is a form of safety. No child will wonder why this isn’t different from what they expected.

And therein lies the pitfall for the second group of viewers: the parents. ‘Neighbor & Neighbor have a new house’ is very much the same. The biggest pain point may be that it is actually not a film as a whole, but a collection of seven small stories. This makes it feel like you are watching a DVD with your child, but on a big screen. And that’s a shame. In 2018, for example, Bob the Builder came to the cinema with a lot of the same, but in one exciting story. That makes the cinema experience extra special and unfortunately that is missing from the Neighbors.

Ultimately it is fairer to judge the film through the eyes of the younger fellow man. The film is intended for them and it will therefore not disappoint any child. Parents should just ignore the clumsily contrived form of storytelling. And that’s it!

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Review: Waiter (2006)

Waiter (2006)

Directed by: Alex van Warmerdam | 97 minutes | comedy | Actors: Alex van Warmerdam, Thekla Reuten, Arian Schlüter, Jaap Spijkers, Pierre Bokma, Fedja van Huêt, Kees Prins

‘Ober’ is a comedy in a very special style that is very different in structure from the previous films by Van Warmerdam. For example, while his film ‘Grimm’ had almost no dialogues, ‘Ober’ is full of humor and sometimes extremely witty and witty dialogues. The story develops completely unpredictably, which is a strong point of this comedy. ‘Waiter’ is mainly a story about an ordinary little man who mainly wants to be a little happy in his ordinary little human existence. Edgar, the main character in the film, is a waiter in a moderately running restaurant “”Het Westen”” with a large aquarium. His work gives him little satisfaction. When he is provoked to the extreme by difficult customers and has no answer, he goes to Herman, the man who writes his life in the form of a screenplay for a film. He storms into the apartment of the writer and his wife Suzie, who is emphatically interfering with Herman’s work.

A clever idea is the way in which Edgar relates to his creator, the writer. The screenwriter and Edgar constantly get in each other’s way. This gimmick keeps coming back in the movie and this also applies to the other characters in the story. Yet this gimmick never gets boring. Edgar finds that the screenwriter makes his life very unpleasant for him and constantly demands changes in his existence. The screenwriter admits to this. But to bother him, he writes new entanglements in Edgar’s life story. These are sometimes even more unpleasant for Edgar or present him with new surprises. A special finding here is that the screenwriter’s wife is constantly making changes to the story herself against the scriptwriter’s wishes. The same scenes then play out again, but from a completely different angle in the storyline. This is a clever find that constantly leads to surprising developments and at the same time to a struggle between Herman and Suzie. This gives a nice glimpse into how a story can develop differently if the scenario is changed (and it continuously does).

Yet at the same time there is also a somewhat sad undertone to the story, Edgar is a bit of a pathetic figure who has no control over his life and cannot get enough. Through his repeated raids on Herman, Edgar also profoundly affects the screenwriter’s life, as he constantly comes to him with new desires about his own life. This also has an effect on the relationship between Herman and his wife. They strongly disagree about what this scenario should look like and get into a heated argument. Edgar’s life is always changing, new paths are always broken. Never a dull moment.

Although the story also includes a few deaths and a few knights of the sad figure (including a suicide), humor predominates to a great extent. The situations are often very bizarre with some brilliant finds. Strong acting, thorough camera work and magnificent photography. The locations where the story takes place are well chosen. An extremely capricious storyline guarantees many surprising developments. Let yourself be surprised and entertained by this absurdist and full of special humor filled film. Great class and highly recommended.

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Review: The Chosen One (2006)

The Chosen One (2006)

Directed by: Theu Boermans | 100 minutes | drama, thriller | Actors: Tijn Docter, Katja Herbers, Kees Prins, Pierre Bokma, Monic Hendrickx

‘The Chosen One’ revolves around religious fanaticism, blood ties, isolation and impossible loves. That genre mix is ​​wrapped in a tight thriller jacket. The result is an adult drama film that is not only very exciting, but also very topical.

‘De Uitverkorene’ revolves around the Van der Laan brothers who run a flourishing software company. Both Johan (Prins) and Peter (Bokma) Van der Laan are strictly Reformed and live exactly according to the Bible laws. When the company wants to go public, Peter decides to enlist the help of recently graduated financial director Steven (Docter). However, the 26-year-old boy is not in the Lord. Peter and Steven decide to hide that from Johan. When Steven starts to have feelings for Johan’s daughter Martha (Herbers), problems arise. The company also turns out not to be as solid as thought.

‘The Chosen One’ is a well-made drama film. The acting is very strong and the smooth direction ensures that the film does not collapse for a moment. The fact that the script is also well filled with interesting side plots is a nice bonus. With his directing, Theu Boermans has succeeded in evoking an oppressive atmosphere. The strict rules of life that the deeply religious brothers follow are hopelessly outdated for the average Westerner.

Stories about the pastor who visits a couple to ask where the next child will be, you probably only know from your grandmother’s anecdotes. In ‘De Uitverkorene’ such visits are the order of the day. The urban Steven who comes to work at the Van der Laans as a very young employee ends up in a completely different world. Because the boy is not religious by birth either, he does not feel at ease with the Reformed world in which he has ended up. Steven guides you through the story and soon you share his surprise and sense of displacement. Because everyone is under the illusion that Steven is one of them, the boy decides to pretend to be a believer. He lives with a lie.

Steven’s sense of loneliness and isolation is convincingly portrayed by Tijn Docter. The actor plays modest and natural. The great thing about Docter’s role is that he doesn’t get unnecessary words in his mouth. Steven is not a real talker and that results in awkward silences and scenes where there is no speaking. So realism at its best. The emotions of his character are mainly interpreted physically by Docter. Not only Docter is doing well. Kees ‘Jiskefet’ Prins is also very strong as a fundamentalist family man. But Bokma and Herbers are also not to be underestimated as tormented brother and sensitive daughter respectively. The mutual tension and the pent-up emotions put the relationships between all the characters on edge. ‘The Chosen One’ grabs you by the throat from start to finish.

‘The Chosen One’ is a complete movie. Boermans and his cast treat you to a penetrating thriller with well-developed characters. Every character is empathetic to a certain extent. The dividing line between good and bad is paper thin. You look at real people with livable problems. The fundamentalist twist gives the film a sharp edge. Anyone who likes strong acting, suspense and intelligent plot twists (and who doesn’t?) should not miss this special film. A stylish homegrown masterpiece.