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El cadáver de Anna Fritz (2015)
A closed-room thriller set in a morgue.
This is a rather disturbing and putrid Spanish thriller, short in length (76 minutes) with its story unfolding in the sterilized environment of a hospital morgue. Anna Fritz is a young and popular actress who died early and Pau who works the night shift decides, along with his two friends, Ivan and Javi, to commit one of the most revolting acts ever, that is to rape the corpse of Anna. Sounds horrid, right? The story takes a crazy turn when Anna wakes up from her coma and sees Pau molesting her. Now the three friends have to face their worst nightmare as they have to kill Anna in order to cover their sick actions. But Anna is not an easy victim...
The story moves forward at a rapid pace and the finale brings the catharsis that the audience demands since the beginning of the film. The order is restored and the perpetrators are severely punished by Anna herself. "The Corpse of Anna Fritz" is a bold film, considering its disturbing theme, and even though it is not a class-A thriller, it is definitely entertaining enough to devote an hour of your time in order to watch it. Nevertheless, Spanish cinema has delivered some of the most memorable crime/thriller movies of the last decade such as "Contratiempo", "El Cuerpo", "Que Dios nos Perdone" and many others that are a level above "The Corpse of Anna Fritz" in terms of quality in screenwriting, plot and cinematography. So, if you haven't watched those, it would be better to start with them.
13 Geboden (2017)
A decent Belgian crime/thriller series with a massive twist.
I've enjoyed much Belgian crime TV series in the past, such as "The Break", "Salamander", "De Dag" and others, so I was eager to watch "13 Commandments" (original title: "13 Geboden") even though it is a rather lengthy show for my taste (13 episodes in total). The story is a classic serial-killer police procedural with a killer nicknamed "Moses" by the press who tortures his victims without killing them but leaving them traumatised and scarred for life. The plot is moving forward in a fast tempo and there is a colossal twist in episode 10 that leaves the viewer aghast. After that, you see the story through a totally different perspective. While it sounds, and on a certain level truly is, another formulaic crime show, "13 Commandments" has some merits that make it stand out in a positive way. The characters are nicely outlined, especially the two protagonists, Peter and Vicky, each having their own problems and troubled past. Furthermore, I found Dirk van Dijck's performance as Peter to be outstanding and after finishing watching this one, I instantly searched his filmography in order to see more of his work. The production values of the show are at a high level, as always in the Belgian cinema and television productions and overall I can safely say that "13 Commandments" is a binge-worthy series and many of you will watch it in one or two sittings.
A true classic.
I am completing my Coen brothers revision with their most popular movie, "Fargo", a picture that I've seen countless times in the past and every time feels like new. Joel and Ethan Coen write and direct a dark, gloomy and pessimistic Neo-noir film which casts some of the actors who appear in many flicks by the dyad such as Frances McDormand and Steve Buscemi
There is a touch of black humor in the story of "Fargo" and the movie begins with Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Masey), a cars salesman, asking two thugs, portrayed flawlessly by Buscemi and the Swedish thespian, Peter Stormare, to kidnap his own wife in order to take the ransom money. Jerry is involved in massive-scale fraud and he needs cash urgently or else he will have to face the consequences. But unfortunately, Jerry is not built for these kind of endeavors so the plan soon goes awry and blood begins shedding in the small town of Brainerd in Minnesota. Police chief Marge Gunderson (F. McDormand) is the officer that investigates the case of a triple murder, committed by the two criminals who also kidnapped Jerry's wife, Jean. Well, I will not say any more about the plot so you could relish this excellent Neo-noir one-hundred percent.
"Fargo" is darker and gloomier if compared with other Coen's crime films and the cinematography is full of the dull color of snow mirroring the grey sky. The plot moves forward in a steady, rather fast, tempo and there is total absence of redundant scenes or dialogue. It is a tight-plotted movie that counts on its memorable atmosphere, its imagery captured by Joel and Ethan's lens. The performances are also immaculate and the overall result is a film that it's deemed to be considered classic in the future. Any true crime fiction aficionado ought to see this film and I can guarantee that they won't regret it.
Barton Fink (1991)
Another gem, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
"Barton Fink" is, my very, personal favorite Coen brothers movie, and John Turturo gives a marvelous performance in his role as the titular Barton Fink, a playwright who is ready to take the big step and write script for a feature film in Hollywood. Barton will have to face a severe writer's block while peculiar literary personas and his mysterious neighbor (John Goodman) in the -hellish- hotel that he now resides. As the plot progresses, our protagonist will have to face a nightmarish scenario that involves finding a murdered woman in his hotel bed, totally ignorant of what happened.
The point in "Barton Fink" is not a very intricate and labyrinthine plot, but the characters and the remarkable dialogue written by the Coen brothers. All characters, except Barton himself, possess a bizarre cartoonist quality that gives the movie a hyper-real dimension. The Capitol production director Jack Lippnick, portrayed impeccably by Michael Lerner, the suspicious hotel employee (Steve Buscemi) and the renowned literary giant W.P. Mayhew (John Mahoney) all have a caricature aspect.There are also actors in the cast that have cooperated with the brothers many times such as Jon Polito in the role of Lipnick's sidekick, Lou Breeze.
The movie is somehow self-referential for the Coen brothers, there is a kind of meta- feeling -especially in some parts- and I could easily imagine Barton Fink as Joel or Ethan. There are a lot of interesting arguments and ideas here and the viewer should be focused on the great dialogue through which the above originate. In my personal opinion, "Barton Fink" along with "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "Fargo" are the top-3 films created by Joel and Ethan Coen. It should also be mentioned that this film's production began when the two auteurs made the bold decision to take a break in the shooting of "Miller's Crossing" taking advantage of this hiatus to create "Barton Fink". So the film was, in a way, a side-project for the brothers and the result is what we saw one screen. Another cornerstone for the Neo-noir genre, yet this movie even though it shares some common characteristics with the genre's requirements, it cannot be strictly confined in just one genre. I would claim that it permeates more than four -perhaps- five genres at the same time. We need more pictures like this and inspired creators like the Coen duo.
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
A masterpiece of the Neo-noir genre.
This is one of the few times that I feel really glad to write an outstanding review for a classic movie or book. "The Man Who Wasn't There" is, in my personal opinion, Joel and Ethan Coen's best film to date, a real cornerstone of the popular, though not clearly defined, Neo-noir genre. The movie has a stellar cast in both protagonistic and supporting roles, and Billy Bob Thornton gives, perhaps, his best performance ever on screen.
Thornton plays Ed Crane, a barber who is married to Doris (Frances McDormand) an unfaithful and shady spouse, a man of few words and a rather pessimistic worldview who embarks on a perilous journey when he decides to blackmail a friend of his, "Big" Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini) in order to get money for his new business. As always, things go the wrong way for our hero and the plot begins to unfold in a rather slow, nevertheless fitting pace, while the story is narrated through Ed's point of view with heavy use of voice-overs. I generally detest voice-overs as I believe that the only thing they offer is easy exposition, but in this case, the Coen brothers use it masterfully, in a way reminiscent of many colossal noir films of the 40s and 50s. Another thing pointing in this direction is the fact that the movie is shot in black and white. Even the use of music brings the viewer back in the golden age of American productions in that era.
I have to struggle in order to find a film closer to the Neo-noir category and I think that "The Man Who Wasn't There'' will become a classic in the years to come. The dialogues are fascinating and truly well-written, another proof of the writers/directors enormous amount of talent, and the finale acts as the most appropriate denouement for the story. This is a movie for all fervent moviegoers, irrespective of genre preferences, and the perfect choice for your next watch. 5/5 stars with all my heart!
An ode to the power of human senses.
"The soul of being is their scent".
"Perfume" is a film adaptation of a novel written by Patrick Süskind and it is set in 18th century Paris, where the living conditions were horrible especially for the lower classes. The protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, is born in the Parisian slums and grows up discovering that he has a very special charisma as he is able to sense every single smell and aroma in the world. His extremely strong olfaction will lead him to the upper-class circles, and he meets a downfallen perfumer, Giuseppe Baldini, played impeccably by Dustin Hoffman who offers him a job where he can satisfy his passion. Jean-Baptiste is struggling to overcome the temporal character of smell, as he says "to capture scent" and keep it forever. Soon he will learn that the stronger aroma comes from human beings themselves and he will begin killing young women in order to absorb and preserve their scent.
It is a rather peculiar idea for a story, but the director, Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola, Run", "Cloud Atlas") succeeds in captivating the audience with his beautiful cinematography and in adapting the novel's mood and character. The actors are impeccable, with Ben Whishaw giving one of his best performances ever on-screen while there are some iconic thespians in the film's cast like D. Hoffman and A. Rickman. The production values are sky-high and the result is one of the most interesting flicks by Tykwer, a movie that is truly food for thought. The final twenty minutes gave me goosebumps while the last scene is destined to make the audience contemplate on the "Perfume's" major themes and questions.
We need more movies like "Perfume", entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time, respectful adaptations of stimulating, gripping novels that will make the audience lay back and think after watching. Personally, I haven't read the book but after watching this, it was added to my, ever-growing, to-read list even though I am now familiar with the story and the plot. I recommend this movie to every cinephile and literary appreciator out there and I hope for more, similar in terms of quality, films in the near future.
L'amant double (2017)
An unsuccessful attempt on erotic thriller by Francois Ozon.
Though I'm not a zealous fan of Francois Ozon's body of work, I must admit that I enjoyed some of his films so my expectations for "The Double Lover" were at a medium level. Unfortunately, the movie left me cold and I found the finale to be somehow frustrating in its ambiguity. Nevertheless, I liked the performances by the protagonists, especially that of Marine Vacth in the role of Chloe. Her beauty shines throughout the movie and in itself is a sufficient reason to watch it.
The story is quite simple, Chloe, a former model with a traumatic family history meets Paul (Jérémie Renier), her psychoanalyst, and falls madly in love with him after a few sessions. They move together and one day Chloe finds by mistake a passport in which Paul has a different surname. After that, a spiral of revelations will occur and Chloe will become entangled in an erotic triangle with Paul and his twin brother Louis. There is really nothing more to say about the plot which has a Hitchcockian dimension and unfolds in a slow,steady pace. The problem is that the story doesn't manage to deliver in overall terms and, as a result, "The Double Lover" seems to be a rather shallow story about an obsessed woman fighting her demons, a plot device that has become cliched in European crime film production in the last decade or so.
The erotic/sexual element, though it is strongly present at full length, doesn't manage to captivate the viewer and some scenes seem to be naive or even awkward. As I mentioned above, the finale is not at all satisfying, concluding a movie that lacks definite orientation and loses itself in the dullness of its director's indecisiveness.There are a lot of better Euro-thrillers out there, so better try your luck somewhere else.
Great performances in this German gloomy thriller.
"Antibodies" (original title: "Antikörper") is a really dark, and in some parts even disturbing, German production starring two well-known and experienced native actors, Wotan Wilke Möhring ("Pandorum", "Valkyrie") and André Hennicke ("Victoria", "Downfall"). The movie centers on Gabriel Engel, a serial-killer and rapist of little boys, who seems to be, except the story's strong antagonist, the personification of pure evil itself. The film begins with the German Police invading Engel's house and arrests him. Then he is transferred to a maximum-security penitentiary facility where he is kept in solitary confinement. At the same time, we are introduced to Michael Martens a police officer somewhere in the German countryside. Michaels is haunted by the murder of a local girl, a case that still remains unsolved, and he strongly suspects Engel as the perpetrator. Thus he will visit Engel in prison and try to determine if he is right.
"Antibodies" is a motion picture that revolves around the strange dynamic in the strange relationship between Michael and Engel. The protagonist seems to be horribly affected by Engel's vile persona and he takes a deep dive into places that he never visited before in his life. The line that separates good and evil will be blurred and Michael will finally have to face his greatest fear: he isn't a worthy father of his teenage son. This is a movie where darkness prevails in nearly every aspect and only in the final moments in the film, there is -perhaps- a glimpse of hope for Michael's tortured soul.
"Antibodies" is certainly not a film for everyone and the unwary viewers may have a hard time digesting its gruesome theme and dialogue. I felt like I've needed a shower after watching this film and this is not a familiar feeling for me, though I've watched many movies of this genre. If you enjoy a grim thriller with exceptional performances you are in for a treat.
A must-see for all bipolar sufferers around the globe!
Stephen Fry is a multi-talented British writer, actor, screenwriter, producer, whose battle with the bipolar disorder, or manic-depression as it is alternatively known, is depicted in this great educational documentary that will appeal to both the -many- person who fight the disease day by day and all those who wish to learn a bit more about this infamous condition. Fry travels around the world and interviews some of the most famous sufferers like Robbie Williams and Carrie Fisher as well as a variety of simple people whose life was turned upside down after they were diagnosed with the disease. The interviews are interjected in Fry's narration of his own personal story that is truly engaging and the bipolar patients can immediately identify with the narrator as they recognize the symptoms of extreme depression and ecstatic manic episodes that always end in a disaster. There is also a number of interviews with psychiatrists who explain the nature of the disease and talk about the effectiveness of certain medications such as lithium and ECT or more modern medicines that are used in order to stabilize the patient's mood. The viewer has a lot to gain by this fabulous personal account of a man's struggle with bipolarity and fans of Stephen Fry's overall work will certainly discover a new side to the famous, gifted Englishman. I recommend it with all my heart to everybody, but even more to the numerous bipolar endurers around the world.
This is hands down, the best picture for 2015, a German production shot in real-time and in one continuous take (134 minutes). The director, Sebastian Schipper, does a terrific job in a truly challenging project and the result is bound to leave you breathless. The protagonist, the titular Victoria (Laia Costa), is a Spanish tourist visiting Berlin and in the first scene of the film, we see her dancing in a nightclub where she is approached by a company of four local young men who seem to like her. Victoria will start flirting with one of them, Sonne (Frederick Lau), while wandering aimlessly to the deserted roads of the German capital. Unfortunately, one person in the group, nicknamed Boxer (Franz Rogowski), has a shady past which dictates his present and he is forced to make a bank robbery in that same night. Victoria will follow Sonne and Boxer in their dangerous endeavor and things will soon spiral out of control.
What makes "Victoria" a modern classic is its impeccable cinematography which leaves the audience stunned. In the first half of the movie we just witness the group of protagonists make small talk, walking on empty streets and smoking joints in an abandoned roof. There is nothing special happening as far as the plot is concerned, nevertheless the viewer becomes better acquainted with the main characters during this first hour. The story begins to take shape after Boxer meets a middle-aged gangster who protected him during his past prison sentence. The thug will ask them to do the heist and after that point, everything seems to escalate at a rapid pace.
A special mention should be made about the film's wonderful soundtrack, composed mainly by Nils Frahm. There are short interludes in the story where we see the protagonists walk or dance with no dialogue and only the music, that harmonizes beautifully with the film's overall mood and character, can be heard. The intro club song (Dj Koze- Burn With Me) is also strong as dynamite, introducing the protagonist to the audience.
I have to dig very deep in my cinema recollections to find a movie shot in that particular manner and being as gripping as "Victoria" is. All film fanatics around the world, regardless of their preferences as far as the genre is concerned, will be delighted to watch such an astonishing picture. It is, without doubt, worthy of a 10/10 rating.
Den röda vargen (2012)
A mediocre Scandi-crime television movie, based on a Liza Marklund's novel.
I am familiar with Liza Marklund's body of work and I've enjoyed many novels from her series having Annika Bengtzon, a young crime reporter trying to set her own mark in a male-dominated working environment, as a protagonist. Unfortunately, this attempt in adapting "The Red Wolf" (original title: "Den Röda Vargen") into a TV movie was mediocre -at least- as the production values didn't correspond to the high standards of the major Nordic noir films and television series. On the plus side, I liked Malin Crépin's performance as Annika and her physique was close to the one I've imagined when reading the books. Nevertheless, nearly all the other aspects of this movie, like plot and characterization were off the mark and disappointing in general. This story is set in Luleå, one of Sweden's northernmost cities, capital of Norrbotten County. I think that it is better to read the book than watching this uninspired adaptation.
An Inspector Calls (2015)
A quality cinema adaptation of J.B. Priestley's play.
"An Inspector Calls" is a world-wide known theater play that has been adapted to cinema in a number of times. This version casts some very experienced, top British actors such as David Thewlis, Miranda Richardson, and Ken Stott while it is directed by the Irish Aisling Walsh ("Fingersmith", "Room at the Top"). All actors do a terrific job, with Stott and Richardson giving a spectacular performance as an uptight, upper-class English couple somewhere at the start of the twentieth century while Thewlis is excellent, as always, in the role of the titular Inspector.
The story is generally known, but for those who are not familiar with the play, I will make a brief synopsis. A police Inspector invades an aristocratic household in order to investigate a young woman's suicide. The deceased seems to be connected, with one or another way, with everybody present in the dining room and when the Inspector starts asking questions everything will start to spin out of control as it is evident that all of them pushed the girl to self-slaughter.
This is a rather short-length movie and it doesn't become tedious in any part as the plot is tight and the dialogue very good. We feel for the dead girl as her tragic story unfolds over the course of the film. The ending is superb and all those who haven't seen or read the play will be certainly satisfied. I honestly cannot think of a flaw in this little diamond, so I recommend it unreservedly.
Nur Gott kann mich richten (2017)
Guns, robberies and 25 kilos of heroin in today's Frankfurt.
This is a fabulous German production, shot in Frankfurt, with a plot that entails the underground people of drug trafficking, two brothers who were in prison for a botched robbery that resulted in the serious injury of two people, and a young female police officer, being in a desperate need for money in order to help her sick daughter.
Moritz Bleibtreu, one of the best contemporary German thespians, plays the role of Ricky, a young man who is totally immersed in the outlaw lifestyle and Edin Hasanovic is his brother, Rafa who, even though he takes part in his brother's shady dealings and endeavors, has a good heart and is gonna soon be a father to a baby. When the two siblings are stopped by the police with their car full of 25 kilos of stolen heroin, they will have to leave the drugs behind and Diana (Birgit Minichmayr) will seize the opportunity to make some easy money by selling the stuff to local dealers.
I will not reveal anything more about the plot as it takes some nasty twists and turns that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat, as the level of suspense is held in high standards throughout the movie's running time. The director, Özgür Yildirim , does a remarkable job in handling the camera in the action scenes which are all wonderfully captured. The performances by the three protagonists are outstanding, proving that Germany is not dead as far as the production of quality silver screen movies is concerned. In a way, the movie reminded me the "Ardennes" (2015), a Belgian crime film, also featuring two delinquent brothers as protagonists. The family drama is intense in "Only God Can Judge Me" too and the finale is both strong and sad for the main characters.
If you are a fan of Euro-Crime films, you should check this one out and you are bound to be thoroughly entertained.
The Shining (1980)
"A fancy car without an engine".
The above quote belongs to Stephen King, author of the titular novel and also one of the most acclaimed horror fiction writers around the globe at the present day. It is a fact that King didn't like the Kubrick's take on the book, though he gave the director credit for the use of visuals within the film. Stanley Kubrick who wrote the movie's script, along with Diane Johnson, made a lot of changes in the story in order to adapt the book's mood and character to a movie script.
The main difference, I think, lies in Jack Torrance's characterization. In the book, Jack is portrayed as an essentially good person, despite his weaknesses and vices, who gradually delves into madness, being under the spell of the hotel's supernatural power. In the book, Jack is afraid of himself and in the end he loses any human characteristic, he becomes a monster, embodying the hotel's evil spirit. In the movie though, Jack is outlined from the very beginning as a malevolent man who is constantly on the edge and ready to harm his own family.
I would like the movie to be much longer in order to incorporate those attributes that made King's novel a classic of the horror fiction genre. The characters needed more time to build-up properly. The last 30 minutes of the film seem to be a bit abrupt as we don't have the time to identify with the protagonists' emotions and state of mind. Of course, I know that it is pretty difficult to adapt such a lengthy novel to a cinema movie, but on the other hand, the core of "The Shining" consists of its strong, realistic characters and the focus should be on them.
Kubrick is a renowned auteur whose body of work leaves no room for challenging his artistic skills. Nevertheless, I don't think that "The Shining" can be numbered among his greatest works. It should also be noted that the actors, mainly Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall, both stated how hard the shooting of the movie was, as Kubrick -a notorious perfectionist- demanded many takes of each single scene, thus exhausting the two talented thespians.
If you've read and enjoyed the book it is essential to watch this, always keeping in mind that Kubrick's version is quite different than the original. Never mind any objections one may have about it, it remains a cornerstone film for the horror genre which manages even today, 40 years later, to send shivers down your spine.
A dramatized account of Norway's biggest robbery to date.
In 2004 eight men disguised as the police special forces (SWAT) attempted to rob the Nokas Cash Central in the city of Stavanger. The tragic result of this crime was the death of a police officer who was shot while being in his vehicle and mass-panic in the center of the small Norwegian town. The movie is set on location, adding to the realistic effect while it is shot with a hand-held camera which makes the film all the more suspenseful and full of tension.
We, as the audience, are watching the preparation of the heist, some hours before the actual event with the robbers making their final decisions and the police officers in the Stavanger Station being blissfully ignorant about what's about to happen. The actual robbery covers the entire second half of "Nokas" and is shot in a masterful way by the director Erik Skjoldbjærg ("Insomnia", "Okkupert"). The actors' performances are all great, even though the nature of this film doesn't offer many opportunities to exhibit acting skills. The director states the real facts about the consequences of this crime in the end and it amazed me that 51 of the 57 in total Kroner that was stolen were never found. If you are a true crime fanatic, this is a film not to miss and the same is true for all Nordic Noir fans who are tired by fictional stories and want to watch something else.
Wind River (2017)
Stunning cinematography makes the difference.
This film is set on a Wyoming Native American reservation and the director, Taylor Sheridan ("Sicario", "Yellowstone"), does a remarkable job in capturing the wild, harsh landscape which acts as the main protagonist in this murder mystery. The story itself is not that original, it revolves around the murder of a young Indian girl whose body is found by a local predator hunter (Jeremy Renner) under a pile of snow. The girl is barefoot and that is the first indication that this is a homicide and not some kind of tragic accident. Later the post-mortem examination concludes that the girl was raped, so the FBI is called to investigate the homicide. Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) will have to overcome the extreme climate condition and the hostile behavior by the local Indian community in order to solve the mystery and find the culprit.
"Wind River" is a movie counting on its magnificent photography rather than a complex plotline and the result is a beautiful flick worthy of your time and attention. I liked both J. Renner's and E. Olsen's performances while I was voluptuously surprised by the acting skills of the Indian members of the cast like Apesanahkwat ("Ray Donovan") and Graham Greene ("The Green Mile", "Dances With Wolves"). The movie won the Cannes Award for Best Director (2017) and also got the prize for Best Director (Taylor Sheridan) and Best Actor (Graham Greene) in the American Indian Film Festival. "Wind River" will appeal to those who are fond of slow-burning mysteries and if you expect another generic Hollywood crime/thriller you will be utterly disappointed. To be more precise, my rating is closer to 7,5/10.
Les rivières pourpres (2000)
A well-shot French thriller, lacking a distinctive mark.
"The Crimson Rivers" (original title: "Les rivières pourpres") is a French production, directed by the famous auteur Matthieu Kassovitz ("La Haine", "Gothika", "Rebellion"), and it is a decent, solid thriller though one that the viewer is deemed to forget soon after watching it. By that, I don't want to downgrade the film's merits and overall I can say it was a rather entertaining watch.
The narrative consists of two seemingly unrelated cases investigated by Pierre Niemans (Jean Reno) and Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel) which slowly merge into one in order to collide in the final suspenseful minutes of the movie. Niemans works on a grisly cases revolving around a series of ritualistic murders with the bodies being mutilated in a barbaric way. The murders seem to be connected with the personnel of a University which is built on the vicinity of the killings. The other plot-thread begins with a simple case of an act of desecration in a Parisian cemetery. Kerkerian initially suspects a local skinhead gang and there is a hilarious fight scene between Cassel's character and the neo-Nazis that lightens the mood in this bleak story. There is the whodunit element present, though it is ridiculously easy to guess who the wrongdoer is.
The plot and its resolution are not innovative and the ending feels rather cliched. I think that "Crimson Rivers" is a movie shot in order to appeal mainly to the American audience as it contains some of the genre's overused tropes. Nevertheless, it remains a nice choice in a hot summer night to pass the time in an enjoyable manner.
Superbly plotted and with a stellar cast, this is one of the best Belgian production in the 00s.
This is an excellent Belgian murder mystery, focusing on strong characterization and magnificent performances by all the main protagonists. "Loft" is essentially a one-room set movie, using a lot of flashbacks in order to enrich the narrative which recounts the strained relationships between five middle-aged upper-class men who share an apartment without their wives knowing. When a murdered young woman is found there, the five amigos will have to solve the mystery of what happened and who the culprit is. Inevitably, they soon begin to suspect one another and it is slowly revealed that each one of them holds more than one secrets.
This is a movie full of plot twists from the beginning until the end and it never makes the audience feel bored or indifferent to the story's mystery. The final twist is ingenious and totally turns the tables, concluding the film on a triumphant note. The cast lists the best present-day Belgian thespians like Koen De Bouw, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Veerle Baetens, but all actors either in leading or supporting roles give their best in this film directed by Erik Van Looy. Van Looy was the man behind the camera in other successful Belgian crime film exports such as "Dossier K." and "The Memory of a Killer", while he is also artistically responsible for the American remake of "Loft", shot in 2014 and starring Karl Urban, Wentworth Miller, and James Marsden. This remake is actually an identical copy of the original though lacking the spark that made the Belgian production irresistible. I strongly recommend to watch the 2008 version first and skip the American remake which certainly stands at a lower level when compared to its precursor.
"What is the cost of lies?"
That was an amazing cinematic experience that one can relish in the small screen, a true masterpiece destined to be considered a modern classic in the years to come. At first I was reluctant to watch "Chernobyl" as I'm a fiction fan rather than an true crime aficionado, nevertheless after the first ten minutes in the first episode I was literally glued to my seat and I binge-watched all five episodes in one evening. In my opinion it is one of the best television productions ever, setting its own distinctive mark that other creators are deemed to follow in the future.
I knew very little about the actual incident and after watching "Chernobyl" I can honestly say that I have a thorough picture of both the event and its cataclysmic aftermath. For the record, the Chernobyl disaster is considered to be the worst nuclear accident in the human history. It happened on 26 April 1986 at the No. 4 nuclear reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian SSR. Ukraine was still a part of the Soviet Union and the reaction from the authorities was not at all satisfying, as depicted and clearly criticized in the series. The President of the USSR at the time, Mikhail Gorbachev (played here by the popular Danish actor, David Dencik, struggled to contain the incident and started to take decisions rather too late when the whole world knew the extent of the disaster. The town of Pripyat was evacuated in a hasty and disorganized way and, most of all, far too late. Nowadays, the town stands as it was left at the time, in a way reminiscent of Pompei.
The main protagonists are Valery Legasov (Jared Harris), a Russian nuclear scientist who was an expert on the RBMK reactors, Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgård), a career politician and senior member of the Kremlin and Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson), a Ukrainian nuclear scientist who joined the other two, trying to limit as far as it was possible the terrifying effects of the explosion. All performances are top-notch with Skarsgård delivering one of his best acting achievements ever in the television. The photography of the series stands a level -or two- above anything I've seen in TV shows so far, and the viewer feels like inhabiting the horror of the setting. The series was shot mainly in Lithuania to the decommissioned power plant Ignalina which bears resemblance to the Chernobyl plant. The representation of the life in the 80s in the Soviet environment is so realistic that we can almost experience it ourselves.
I read on some of the - mostly raving- reviews that a small part of the audience found the ending to be a bit underwhelming, but I think that it was the most suitable finale in this bleak, tragic story. The courtroom scene explains everything even to the most ignorant viewer while it offers some a sense of justice. The open declaration of the truth by Valery Legasov, that finally leads to his own demise some months later, is the best conclusion that one can imagine for a show of this stature and I cannot think of something more appropriate.
"Chernobyl" is a show that you will never forget. The first episode, which is perhaps the best of the show, is genuinely horrifying and the sequence with the two scientists hovering above the exposed reactor is destined to haunt you forever. Sometimes the reality is more petrifying that the most well-crafted horror fiction stories. Do yourselves a favor and indulge in this five-hour trip that will leave you numb and full of contradicting feelings. This is a solid 10/10.
Eteros Ego - Hamenes Psyches (2019)
Finally a binge-worthy Greek crime TV show!
This is a spin-off the movie "Eteros Ego" (in English: "The Other Me") a commercial hit in my homeland and one of the very few promising attempts from Greek producers who seem to wake up in the recent years. I didn't like the movie much, though I have to admit that it was better than most of the Greek crime films of the last decades and that was enough.
"Eteros Ego: Hamenes Psyches" ("The Other Me: Lost Souls") is an 8-part series featuring the two protagonists that we first met in the 2016 film, that is the autistic professor Dimitris Lainis (Pygmalion Dadakaridis) and Lieutenant Colonel Apostolos Barasopoulos (Manos Vakousis). Both of them try to solve a nasty case of a serial-killer who imitates the mythological labours of Theseus in his killings. The mythological references are perhaps the strongest aspect of the show as Greek Mythology offers an inexhaustible source of inspiration for many artists and directors.
The trope of the autistic investigator whose intelligence proves to be invaluable for the final solution the case is a trope that we, as audience, have encountered a number of times, the most iconic example being the infamous Saga Noren of the Swedish/Danish co-production "Bron/Broen". Dadakaridis delivers a subtle performance, portraying professor Lainis in a human as well as realistic manner. Furthermore, Vakousis is great in the role of the homicide chief who asks the professor's help when he realizes that there is an academic angle in the case.
There is a strong whodunit element as well as some really well-made gory scenes, something rare for a Greek TV show. Moreover, there are some common crime fiction tropes present such as the use of red herrings that mislead the audience, thus making the final revelation of the culprit all the more surprising. This is a show that stands a level above the previous similar attempts and it is really worthy of your time. I can only hope for more analogous Greek production in the near future.
30 minutes of great performances, narrating a more than disturbing story.
This is such a disturbing real story and the script lines are based on the actual taped interrogations and confessions of the two ten-year-old boys that murdered in a gruesome, inhuman way the little James Bulger, a two-year-old baby. The case shocked the whole globe when it happened in 1993 and the two boys became the youngest convicted murderers of the 21st century. If you are parents, especially with little kids avoid this short film at any cost. One should protect himself from the sheer volume of human depravity and wickedness. Unfortunately, there are stories that they take a lot more than a strong stomach to digest.
Nevertheless, if one wants to evaluate the film itself it is a great achievement as it is much difficult to direct two young kids to portray the two murderers in such a masterful and convincing manner. Leon Hughes and Ely Solan are two names that, I am certain, will hear more in the near future. The director is Vincent Lambe, who shoots exclusively short-length movies such as "Broken Things" and "After the War", but this one is definitely his magnum opus so far. "Detainment" made the Oscar shortlist for Best Live Action Short Film 2019. There is a controversy around this nomination as Lambe didn't ask for the permission of little James Bulger's parents, something that is considered a major unethical move from the film's producers team. If you are a fan of the true crime genre. you should watch "Detainment" keeping always in mind the remarks I made at the beginning of my review.
A distressing story about two siblings from Belgium.
This is another unblemished Belgian crime film production, wonderfully shot and with excellent performances from the -small in number- stellar cast. Kevin Jansenns ("Vermist", "Revenge") plays the role of Kenny a young drug-addicted thug and robber who gets out of prison after four years of incarceration. Jeroen Perceval ("Bullhead", "Borgman") is Danny, Kenny's elder brother who gets infatuated with his baby brother's girlfriend, the young waitress and heroin addict Sylvie (portrayed impeccably by Veerle Baetens). Danny is reluctant to talk to Kenny about his relationship as he seems to live on a world of his own where things remained still with the passage of time. Kenny believes he still can win Sylvie's heart even though she is obviously not interested anymore. The story will take a more suspenseful turn in its second half where the two brother's relationship will be tested under hard circumstances. This movie also casts Jan Bijvoet whose great performance we admired in the disturbing "Borgman" (2013).
I will not reveal anything more about the plot as it would spoil a strong cinematic experience that proves that Belgian productions remain on the top of today's Continental crime film productions. This is a sorrowful story with a tragic ending where a shocking final plot twist overturns everything that we, as the audience, thought and believed about the characters. "The Ardennes" is a slow-burning masterpiece, it is the first full-length film directed by Robin Pront ("The Flemish Bandits", "Injury Time") and a movie that you will never forget as it succeeds in getting across to the viewer its gloomy mood and character. The two brothers story arc is moving as well as tragic and we root for them until the ending, never mind their evident flaws.
This is a movie that I can recommend without a hint of reservation to all Euro-Crime fanatics out there, and especially those who are keen on Dutch and Belgian productions. Enjoy!
Fill de Caín (2013)
A generic Spanish thriller with a nice ending twist.
This is a movie I chose to watch because it casts as protagonist one of the best contemporary European actors, Jose Coronado. Here he plays Carlos Albert a middle-aged businessman with a wife, Coralia, and two kids, Nico and Diana. Both Carlos and Coralia are worried about their son's behavior which is cold and distant while sometimes it can become violent too. So, they ask for the professional help of Julio Beltran, a psychotherapist who is struggling to make ends meet. Julio accepts the challenge and embraces Nico in order to unlock Nico's mind and soul. But soon we learn that things and people are not necessarily what they seem to be in this Spanish production, directed by Jesús Monllaó.
The plot is full of twists, with the big one waiting at the end of the film, while the performance by Coronado is excellent, as always, in a role that suits him perfectly. It is a relatively short length film and as a result, the story is tight and with no redundant scenes. Even though many will find the ending kind of predictable, I actually fell for it and I was genuinely surprised by the movie's conclusion. I think that "Son of Cain" will appeal to the -many- fans of Spanish crime fiction which have delivered some of the most exciting crime/thrillers of the recent years such as "The Invisible Guest" and "The Body" . Coincidentally, Jose Coronado is the protagonist on both those films and, in my opinion, is also the primary reason to watch "Son of Cain" .
A nice surprise from Croatia.
This is a 6-part crime/thriller series set in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia. The story begins when four individuals meet for the first time during an unfortunate incident which ends up with the death of a young man, son of a local kingpin who will do anything to avenge his offspring's untimely demise. The plot thickens when the young female police investigator enters the picture, determined to find the culprit(s) of this homicide.
The plot has enough twists and turns to keep the viewer glued on his seat while the photography of this show is simply exquisite. After finishing watching "Success" (original title: "Uspjeh") I wanted to visit Zagreb as soon as possible as the city is captured in such a wonderful way that convinces you to make this trip. The performances are exceptional, both the protagonists and the secondary characters are portrayed in a realistic and plausible manner, nothing like the cardboard good guys Vs Villains of the American productions.
Overall, "Success" is a more than successful addition to the year's best crime TV shows from Europe and it leaves you thirsty for more. I would like to check out more series from the countries of former Yugoslavia as I'm sure that I will find more diamonds like this one. Make sure not to miss it!
Det som göms i snö (2018)
Too slow and the story is not compelling enough.
As a zealous fan of Scandinavian crime fiction in general, and Swedish more specifically, I was eagerly awaiting to watch this series and one of the main reasons was that Leif G.W. Persson is one of the three screenwriters of "The Truth Will Out'' (original title: "Det som göms i snö"). Persson is one of the top criminologists in Sweden and as an author he has written the monumental "Fall of the Welfare Stete" trilogy, one of the genre's classics along with "Millenium" trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson and "Martin Beck" novel series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.
After watching the eighth and final episode of this series, I felt far from satisfied mainly due to the show's dull tempo and the not-so engaging storyline. Even though the first two episodes are promising something really good, the rest of the series seems to be dragging on, lacking a specific focus as far the plot is concerned. The final conclusion is equally discontenting and foreseeable. On the plus side, I should mention the captivating cinematography of the series, set in Stockholm, and the more than decent performances by the main protagonists. Robert Gustafsson is truly great in his portrayal of the solemn and sombre Inspector Wendel who still cannot accept his brother's suicide some years before. I also liked Louise Peterhoff and Christopher Wagelin performances as police detectives.
To sum up, this show was not exactly my cup of tea but this doesn't mean that it will not appeal to other viewers. In my opinion "The Truth Will Out'' cannot stand in comparison with the genre's top series such as "Bedrag", "Bridge" or "Innan Vi Dör". It will mainly be remembered for its great sense of location and beautiful photography.