Part two of my Dutch Girl Does Arts & Culture overview for October-December 2015. In today’s post my film & TV recommendations including 6 Must See Films and 4 Must Avoid Films! I’ll also be sharing a great foodie tip with you for a fast, healthy and cheap meal in London.
FILM & TV
We start with my Top Must See and Must Avoid Films, followed by my complete film list for October-December at the bottom of the post.
Must See Films
1. Incendies (2010, dir: Denis Villeneuve. Cast: Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, Lubna Azabal)
One of the early feature films by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. The story starts with twins Jeanne and Simon receiving two letters and instructions from their deceased mother at the notary. The letters are to be delivered their father (who was supposedly killed years ago) and their brother (whose existence they didn’t know about). For Simon this is confirmation that their mother was crazy and he refuses to take part in Jeanne’s resolution to fulfil their mother’s last wishes She travels to the Middle East and slowly unravels their mother’s incredible life journey while the story switches between present day and the past.
This is far from a feel good film, but it does a great job at drawing the viewers into the film. A fantastic film with an unsettling plot that will linger in your head for a while.
2. Sicario (2015, dir: Denis Villeneuve. Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin)
The most recent film by Denis Villeneuve, the same director as Incendies. In Sicario (meaning ‘hitman’) Villeneuve investigates the war against drugs in the border area between Mexico and the USA. The film shows how no-one is ‘innocent’ and that everybody plays dirty, even (or especially?) the government. A tense film with excellent performances by Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro.
3. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015, dir: J.J. Abrams. Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac)
This was a film I just HAD to see in the cinema! Hubby had only seen the first Star Wars film before so we did our homework and watched all previous six episodes, in the order from episode I to episode VI. It was good to see the series in this order as it not only went from excruciatingly painful to good (and bad again because I watched the re-edited versions of episode V-VII which are horrendous) and also the storyline made more sense in this way.
Having brainwashed ourselves by watching the entire series in just 1.5 weeks time, I remembered my big problem with these films (do I dare to criticise these films?!?) and that is the overload of information coming right at you at the beginning of each film. While I’m trying my best to read all the oversized letters before they disappear from the screen again, I can’t keep up with all the characters, plots, schemes and planet names all thrown at you at the start. Another thing that really bothers me in these films is that scenes are cut off very abruptly, which distance me as a viewer from what’s happening on the screen. It makes me very aware of the fact that I’m watching characters on a screen, instead of feeling engaged with them and care about what happens to them.
Despite these issues, I very much like these films. Perhaps mostly because of nostalgia than anything else. But the newest instalment in the series by director J.J. Abrams is truly something else! Yes, I still have some problems with this film, but it is very energetic, engaging and packed with hilarious oneliners.
A fun trivia is Abram’s tribute to the Beastie Boys throughout the film. The droid BB-8 is supposedly a reference to the band name and their number of studio albums. Alien fighter pilot Ello Asty, which sounds like the Beastie Boys album Hello Nasty, supposedly has the text ‘Ill to Born’ (reference to BB album Licensed to Ill) written in alien language on his helmet.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Johnson, Hollywood SFX legend who has worked on films such as The Empire Strikes Back, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Never-ending Story, Aliens and more. You can read that interview here.
4. The Revenant (2015, dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson)
Set in 1820s America we see how frontiersmen kill native Americans and each other. It contains one especially gruesome scene in which DiCaprio is seriously mauled by a bear, leaving him critically ill. After this attack we see him fight for his life and trying to survive all the other life-threatening elements, including people, especially people.
5. Blue Ruin (2013, dir: Jeremy Saulnier. Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves)
This film was a great surprise as I had never heard of it before and had no expectations at all. Macon Blair plays an outsider who kills someone out of vengeance. He turns out to be an inept killer and not only puts his own life at danger, but also that of his estranged sister.
A very tense film with a surprising turn of events.
6. 28 Days Later (2002, dir: Danny Boyle. Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brandan Gleeson)
This must be one of the best zombie(-ish) films I’ve seen so far! Cillian Murphy wakes up in a hospital bed one day and discovers that the world as we know it no longer exists. A virus has spread over the United Kingdom turning the infected in bloodthirsty killers.
Must Avoid Films
1. Steve Jobs (2015, dir: Danny Boyle. Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels)
While Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later ended up in my must see list above, his latest film was sadly the worst film I saw at the end of last year. Steve Jobs was apparently a very obnoxious man which Michael Fassbender plays very well. The film is entirely set before previous big Apple presentations, while we see Fassbender running around backstage preparing for his ‘show’ and speaking to friends and foes (mostly foes). To be honest, I couldn’t care less about the people. The film isn’t engaging at all and reminded me of the estranging and chaotic atmosphere of last year’s Birdman in which we saw Michael Keaton running around backstage all the time whilst dealing with all types of different problems.
2. Grandma (2015, dir: Paul Weitz. Cast: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden)
The grandma from the movie’s title tries to source money so her granddaughter can have an abortion. A typical American indie film, without the ‘cute’ factor, and also without the LOL factor…
3. Trainwreck (2015, dir: Judd Apatow. Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson)
Amy Schumer doesn’t believe in commitment, until she falls in love. Although both Schumer and this film had been completely hyped up, I found it boring and unconvincing. Train wreck… what’s in a name?
4. The Wolfpack (2015, dir: Crystal Moselle. Cast: Angulo family)
A rather disappointing documentary, which could have been so much better. It tells us about the Angulo family and how their many children have been locked up indoors for all their lives in their small New York apartment. They learn about the outside world through films and they reenact their favourite films by using homemade props and memorising entire scripts. All changes when one of the children decides to leave the house one day. The director apparently met the brothers in the streets of New York on their first group outing. They caught her eye due to their distinctive look: long hair and all dressed in black suits like the smart gangsters in Reservoir Dogs. It is an incredible story, but it feels like the director has left so many details untouched.
Listed in alphabetical order. I marked my favourite series with a *.
Bridge, The USA Season 1 & 2*
Elementary Season 4
Fargo Season 2*
Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, The*
Top of the Lake
Walking Dead, The Season 6*
DF/Mexico Hanbury Street, London, E1 6QR
This Mexican fast food restaurant was launched in 2014 as a pop-up restaurant by the people behind Wahaca, another great street for Mexican cantina. Almost two years later it is thankfully still going strong and they have even opened a second restaurant on Tottenham Court Road. While service is fast and the food is in principle fast food, it is all prepared fresh and even tastes healthy. On the menu are many Tex-Mex favourites such as burritos, tacos and Mexican-style burgers. It’s all tasty and friendly for your wallet too.
Here are the other films I watched over the last months, in alphabetical order. My recommendations are marked with a *.
*28 Weeks Later (2007, dir: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Cast: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner)
Another Earth (2011, dir: Mike Cahill. Cast: Brit Marling,
The Brady Bunch Movie (2015, dir: Betty Thomas. Cast: Shelley Long, Gary Cole, Christine Taylor)
Burnt (2015, dir: John Wells. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy)
Dirty Dancing (1987, dir: Emile Ardolino. Cast: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach)
*Donnie Darko (2001, dir: Richard Kelly. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Duval)
*Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l’échafaud) (1958, dir: Louis Malle. Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly)
Face/Off (1997, dir: John Woo. Cast: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Alessandro Nivola)
Fahrenheit 451 (1966, dir: François Truffaut. Cast: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack)
*Final Girls, The (2015, dir: Todd Strauss-Schulson. Cast: Malin Ackerman, Taissa Farmiga, Alexander Ludwig)
*Ghost World (2001, dir: Terry Zwigoff. Cast: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi)
*Gift, The (2015, dir: Joel Edgerton. Cast: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton)
*Hateful Eight, The (2015, dir: Quentin Tarantino. Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh)
I Frankenstein (2014, dir: Stuart Beattie. Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto)
*In Bruges (2008, dir: Martin McDonagh. Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes)
*Insomnia (2002, dir: Christopher Nolan. Cast: Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan)
Johnny English (2003, dir: Peter Howitt. Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Natalie Imbruglia, Ben Miller)
Last Dragon, The (1985, dir: Michael Schultz. Cast: Taimak, Vanity, Julius Carry)
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004, dir: Brad Silberling. Cast: Jim Carrey, Jude Law, Meryl Streep)
Lincoln Lawyer, The (2011, dir: Brad Furman. Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Philippe)
Love Birds (2011, dir: Paul Murphy. Cast: Rhys Darby, Sally Hawkins, Faye Smythe)
Man Up (2015, dir: Ben Palmer. Cast: Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Olivia Williams)
Martian, The (2015, dir: Ridley Scott. Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Sean Bean)
*Memento (2000, dir: Christoper Nolan. Cast: Guy Pierce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano)
*Moon (2009, dir: Duncan Jones. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott)
*No Country for Old Men (2007, dir: Coen brothers. Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin)
*One Hour Photo (2002, dir: Mark Romanek. Cast: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan)
Pixels (2015, dir: Chris Colombus. Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan)
Play Misty For Me (1971, dir: Clint Eastwood. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills)
Playtime (1967, dir: Jaques Tati. Cast: Jaques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Rita Maiden)
Skyfall (2012, dir: Sam Mendes. Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench)
Spectre (2015, dir: Sam Mendes. Cast: Daniel Craig, Christopher Waltz, Naomie Harris)
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999, dir: George Lucas. Cast: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman)
*Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002, dir: George Lucas. Cast: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor)
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005, dir: George Lucas. Cast: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor
*Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977, dir: George Lucas. Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher)
*Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (2015, dir: Irven Kershner. Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher)
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (2015, dir: Richard Marquand. Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher)
Swimmer, The (1968, dir: Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack. Cast: Burt Lancaster, Janet Landgard, Janice Rule)
Time Machine, The (1960, dir: George Pal. Cast: Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux)
Town, The (2010, dir: Ben Affleck. Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm)
Tron: Legacy (2010, dir: Joseph Kosinski. Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde)
Two Lovers (2008, dir: James Gray. Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw)
*Victoria (2015, dir: Sebastian Schipper. Cast: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski)
Walk, The (2015, dir: Robert Zemeckis. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Guillaume Baillargeon)
Westworld (1973, dir: Michael Crichton. Cast: Yul Brenner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin)
I am curious to hear your opinion about The Martian. I was really disappointed by it and want to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think: ‘Must See’ or ‘Must Avoid’?