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Zwarte Tulp (2015– )
Well filmed, but a bit typical
25 April 2015
The first episode of Zwarte Tulp gives the sense of a well-directed but conventional television series. Cynically speaking, this is 'just' another Dutch drama, in an age of extraordinary serial storytelling. In fact, it has a lot of the same plot elements as Showtime's 'Ray Donovan' written by Ann Biderman, but nowhere near its kind of gravitas.

The acting is generally very strong, which in Dutch television is actually rare. Marcel Musters, Anna Drijver and Raymond Thiry are naturals, but a few actors can't shake the infamous Dutch 'stage tone', which drags down the series. Benja Bruijning is a terrific addition from the 2nd episode, which made it stronger than the first, but not strong enough to get me to watch ep 3.

This series was definitely made by a very skilled and experienced director (Ben Sombogaard) and writers, but it feels like they lacked the vision on how to tell a relatively standard story to today's audiences, who have been spoiled with the likes of David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, Vince Gilligan, Matthew Weiner and basically every HBO show. If RTL wants to be a contender in the on- demand future of TV, they better start hiring crazier writers and show runners.
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9 (I) (2009)
This is not a feature..
20 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
..but a short film put on loop. And not a great one at that.

(start spoiler) 9's plot is thoroughly uninteresting, even though its premise is -the premise being nine rag-dolls exploring a post-apocalyptic landscape and finding out they're the last of what remains of 'humanity', kept safe in their non-human form. (end spoiler)

As a fantasy story, this one feels unoriginal because, we've seen the bearer of an evil magic artifact enter a dark volcanic valley flanked by his faithful friend (for f*ck's sake; they cast Elijah Wood in the exact same part).. The concecpt of splitting and storing a human soul into objects has been much more powerfully explored in the Harry Potter books and the post-apocalyptic setting as consequence of a struggle between humans and artificially intelligent machines was not just introduced but epitomized in The Matrix. Don't steal ingredients if you can't make a better cake (i don't believe this is actually a saying, so you heard it here first..)

The characters keep repeating their clichéd lines in different variations and the tension arcs are also very repetitive.. 1.) group goes into new territory, 2.) monster appears and nearly takes one of group 3.) lone ranger from group returns and defeats monster.. 4.) intermission with feeble new plot information, then repeat)

As a lesson in how chewed-up-and-spit-out storytelling works, this is a valuable one. Too bad Hollywood and inspired minds like Tim Burton are still accepting these uninspired story lines for 100+ million dollar features.

Shape up, Mr. Burton.
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Casanova (2005)
Amusing and forgettable.
15 February 2006
Not good, but all right. And that's a terrible disappointment from Lasse Hallstrom, who I've come to greatly admire because of Cider House Rules, My life as a dog and Chocolat. This film is dreadfully unstimulating in its plot, yet it keeps the viewer amused and from walking out.

I can understand that, after the back breaking shoot of Brokeback Mountain, Heath Ledger opted to spend some time in Venice, portraying a heterosexual fantasy, though he keeps most of his talent in the closet, and it seems only his low voice was utilized. Same for Sienna Miller and her abundant beauty and strength.

Lena Olin is impressive as yet another character in her diverse range, and Oliver Platt, back in Venice after Dangerous Beauty, steals the show as an ugly and lovable merchant -speaking of Merchants, quite a lot more parallels than the setting and the appearance of Jeremy Irons exist between Cassanova and Michael Ratford's Merchant of Venice (which I thought was incredibly good)

Venice, of course, is filmed in all its might and glory and almost naturally the Inquisition plays the bad guy (fun to see Irons play this part, after seeing him as the Christ-like Antonio).

Nice theme is the passing on of the legend of libertine Cassanova, but not well enough worked out to top others with the same ingredient (Mask of Zorro, Princess Bride.

A deeper and much more powerful film on Cassanova would be Fellini's from the seventies with Donald Sutherland.
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