Hank, my uncle the criminal

Oom Henk

A quick review.

Synopsis: Koen is a law student who, for a reason I missed, pretends Henk de Koning (Hank King), a notorious criminal, is his uncle. Henk forces Koen to start working in an old people’s home to try and get the secret of 12 million euro ransom money out of former, but now demented kidnapper Sjon de Nooyer.

– This is a black comedy, but also a farce.
– The violence is generally of the cartoon type – you never actually see people die, and corpes are often hidden in empty barrels.
– The plot is what it should be. The scripting could have been a lot tighter though – a tear was shed when realising what Tarantino or even Richie could have done with the premise.
– Two thirds in the plot starts to slow to the point that you’ll contemplate switching channels, but the end makes up for it.
– The acting was fine – I was especially impressed with Tobias Nierop who hit some fine notes; the bad notes being forgiven easily for his tenderish age.

You should watch this:
– If you are stuck in a hotel room and there is nothing else on.

You should not watch this:
– If you still have an unseen Game of Thrones episode on your hard disk.

Even shorter review: nice movie, only marred by the fact that the writers did not sit on the script for a year or so.

My rating: 3.0 stars

Dutch trailer with English subs: http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi52863769/

Strong adventure story

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

review by Branko Collin

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” This must be one of the clunkiest opening sentences I have ever read, and yet it is the opening sentence of one of the most popular books of recent times, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. You feel sorry for all the publishers who said no to the manuscript based on reading the first page and thus to the barely imaginable wealth they passed up on.

Apart from the opening sentences, though, the book is well worth reading. Rowling does what other mega-storytellers such as Spielberg and Hergé do (respectively did) so well: she tells big stories about big subjects, adventures that capture your attention from beginning to end, where true heroes battle it out against enormous odds. Harry Potter the character nicely matches the hero pattern, thank you very much. He comes perilously close to dying several times in the book already. No wishy-washy treatment of the subject here.

A minor niggle I have is that Rowling sometimes dangerously flirts with my suspended disbelief, and it is a testament to the author’s storytelling qualities that I shrugged off my qualms and dived right back into the book.

An example of this: Hermiony Granger is depicted as a rather horrible little girl for most of the book, but then when Harry and his friend Ron save her from a troll, the experience forges a bond between them that makes them instant friends. Rowling is not interested in the process; she shrugs it off in one sentence, and if your eyes happened to skip it you’ll be wondering the rest of the book what the hell just went on: “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve foot mountain troll is one of them.”

Don’t say this eye-skipping doesn’t happen; I only noticed the one-sentence sex scene in Thea Beckman’s children’s book Hasse Simonsdochter during my third reading. In that case however, that did not make much of a difference; here it’s more instrumental.

The movie of the book doesn’t have this problem; it is well clear there from the start that Hermione wants to be friends with Ron and Harry. I must further compliment the makers of the film because it follows the book so closely, yet manages to be a good film in its own right.

My rating: 3.5 stars

The Man Without a Past

I started watching this film three times. Half an hour into the third time, I noticed something odd. A quick look at the DVD box confirmed my suspicions: this is a comedy.

A man takes the train to the big city, where he gets mugged by thugs. They leave him to die in a puddle of his own blood, but he miraculously survives. But he loses his memory in the process of being mugged. The movie explores how he tries to build a new life for himself, something that is hindered by the fact that modern society requires you to have a registered identity. The MWAP doesn’t seem to let modern society get in his way too much.

The film is very slow paced, even for European standards. The humor is mostly absurdist:

MWAP: I went to the moon.

Irma: How was it?

MWAP: There was no-one there. It was a Sunday.

Irma: Why did you come back?

MWAP: I had things to do.

The director’s introduction on the DVD box might give you some insight too (warning, translation of a translation):

My last film was in black and white, and without sound. This made clear I meant business. Had I continued along that track, my next project would have required me to skip the movie itself. What would have been left; a shadow. Therefore, always ready to compromise, I decided to add dialogue, and colour to this film, and other commercial values.

I must admit that subconsciously I had hoped that taking this step would make me seem normal too. Hopefully my social, economical and political view on the state of society, on morality and on love are clear from this movie.

Screen capture: the new home of the Man Without a Past.

Perhaps the most striking thing about The Man Without A Past is its styling. The director and his team went to great lengths to make a pretty movie. This is important, because this is the sort of film where you’ll be looking at the scenery, waiting for the story to continue. In this respect you can compare it to road movies, although the MWAP stays firmly in one place. A city’s dock-, wet-, and brownlands are capable of producing their own vistas.

Lucky for me; I agreed with the makers about what is pretty, and what is good. Tip: before you rent or watch this film, view some screenshots or trailers.

The Man Without a Past (orig. Mies vailla menneisyyttä, 2002) by Aki Kaurismäki, 3.0 stars

Review of The Man Without a Past published on Oct 27, 2006 by Branko Collin.

Demolition Man

Film with Sly Stalone, Sandra Bullock, Wes Snypes, and Dennis Leary. If I got their names wrong it’s because I don’t really care. With a cast this bad, this movie can be nothing but … well, surprisingly average, actually. Sly plays a 20th century cop who is cryogenically frozen for some reason or other, only to be released as a trouble shooter in the literallest meaning of the word in the 21st when mega-criminal Snypes somehow escapes his freezer.

Gentle nods to SF classics (such as Brave New World) and some decent twists. For instance, Stalone is continuously fined by the ruling computer because of swearing, whereas Bullock gets away with her tries at emulating 20th century “cool” language: “Let’s lick his ass!”

Leary is his usual fatiguing self. Again, he is due for a nappy change, and again his mother apparently is not around to provide him with one.

Demolition Man (1993), 5/10

Review of Demolition Man published on Aug 6, 2006 by Branko Collin.