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Carlo Houtkamp

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20 reviews in total 
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59 out of 78 people found the following review useful:
If This Is Merely Entertainment (Then Make It So!), 5 May 2003

"They don't make 'em like that anymore," friends of the horror genre often remark on their web sites in reference to killer films from the late 1970s and 1980s era. They are right.

It's not just that sentiments of nostalgia have turned those films into little treasures in our memories. It's because current horror films stink. Not all of them, but plenty or more anyway.

Ever since Dwight H. Little last captured the right Halloween spirit and atmosphere in 1988's Halloween 4, the series deteriorated into a ridiculous, messy and pathetic show. I don't care how many fans of the series curse part 3, it was a pleasant watch compared to what came after part 4. Halloween 5 was a complete prank and lacked any sense of storytelling (compliments to Danielle Harris, who managed to perform extremely well under the circumstances). Part 6, well, let's not waste any words on that one. H20 had its moments and decent acting by Jamie Lee Curtis, but a Southern California private school seemed like a poor replacement for Haddonfield. The producers dedicated it to Donald Pleasance, ignoring the fact that his last name was Pleasence (with an E) and had been spelled correctly on all earlier installments that involved his acting. So much for Moustapha Akkad's commitment to the project!

Halloween Resurrection had a nice opening scene. A 1960s home movie at the Myers house, with the sounds of Johnny Angel performed by Shelley Fabares. It was cut. Of course, the Akkads in their infinite wisdom must have thought, why bother young people with an old song from someone they have never even heard of! Let's keep the film simple (and let's take a popular hip hop artist as the lead actor).

But, thank God, Rick Rosenthal filmed one other decent scene. It involves Jamie Lee Curtis's character hospitalized in a mental institution. This actually is quite a nice scene, with the actress performing wonderfully. It provides a satisfactory and surprisingly original bridge between the events at the end of H20 and the current state of affairs in "Resurrection", with Laurie Strode at the end of her wits and a killer still on the loose.

And after this? We might as well have left. After the promising Jamie Lee Curtis opening scene there seemed no budget, and more important: no inspiration left to come up with something, anything. It's a bore. It's a drag. The prospect of a replica of the original Myers house showing up is a joke. We're allowed one glimpse, and even on that one occasion it is very unsatisfactory: a big car is parked in front and taking the view, as the camera briefly glances up from a low, moving position. It beats me why they even bothered rebuilding it. The interior scenes can be ignored in this sense: it may have been any old house that Busta Rhymes's character Freddie Harris decided to do his online reality show in. And about these characters: have they ever been this flat in ANY Halloween sequel? NO! The characters in Halloween 5 or 6 were drawn brilliantly compared to what is presented to us here! Okay I realize this is actually pretty much of an achievement. Credit to Larry Brand and Sean Hood. It's amazing. The unimpressive cast (I'm not counting Curtis) is highlighted by 'stars' Busta Rhymes (pop artist who is kindly given the chance to act) and Tyra Banks (model who is kindly given the chance to act). Let's suffice by saying that in this case the actors have been given the roles they deserve.

Enough said. Or... We often are told one should not apply the same criteria to a horror film as the ones that apply to drama or classics. But why on earth not? I admire more than one horror movie, but that does not mean I feel I should appreciate the crappy ones by the grace of the good ones. I can see when a film is made with no heart, no spirit and Resurrection is the key example of that. Furthermore, if these films -as we are told so often by people like Moustapha Akkad- are made for entertainment (read: cashing in) purposes only and not for quality acting, complex storytelling or great photography then why, why, why do they so vigorously renounce that one basic goal, the goal of being entertaining???

Maxima's Miracle (2003) (TV)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Moving and sincere, 17 April 2003

Every once in a while a Dutch film comes along that proves it is still possible to create a relatively intelligent, entertaining, moving and visually soothing film right here on the grey, concrete soils of the beautiful place that Holland once was. De Poolse Bruid is one of them. Wonder van Maxima is another.

In Het Wonder van Maxima Paul Ruven makes good use of the city of Amsterdam, turning it into the setting for various complex and yet accessible story lines, inhabited by appealing characters. The actual wedding of Maxima of Argentina to Dutch prince Willem Alexander in 2002 forms the central element within the fiction, and real footage of the event has been marvelously and convincingly blended with new footage and staged scenery. Yet Maxima & Willem, no matter how nice a couple they make, are not what Ruven is concerned with. He focuses on an Argentinian mother and her young, mute daughter from a town that, with its people, has disappeared from Argentina's map: taken away, neatly disposed of and almost forgotten.

There are a lot of social points made in the film that touch the heart and make sense. Many symbolic and literal references are made to what was wrong in Argentina then and what's going wrong in the Netherlands now. Ruven has succeeded in every aspect to make a good film and tell a good story - albeit sometimes with the help of very melodramatic themes and even a forced and strange story line which involves a foreign girl literally on the run from the police who want to send her back to her hostile homeland. For some reason she thinks it of crucial importance -and somehow she finds the time- to convince a tough Madame in the red light district to meet with her son (the girl's boyfriend), who was given up for adoption as a baby. It only serves to pour more melodrama all over us: mother and son do meet, in the very hospital room where the stepmother has just passed on...

Yet, Wonder van Maxima works miraculously. I strongly recommend others to watch it, for it's not a film that can be captured in one review. Paul Ruven has done a great job, and on the whole he seems very sincere in his humanist message to the audience. The whole project is high quality stuff: screenplay, soundtrack, cinematography, editing, and on top of it all a strong, talented cast with stunning performances especially by Spanish actress Sylvia Munt and the beautiful girl who plays her daughter. Compliments for all involved!

14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Film Noir in Sunny Setting, 23 April 2001

Claude Chabrol's Les Innocents aux Mains Sale sometimes runs the risk over becoming very, very slow-paced. Particularly the scene in the judge's office in which Julie's attorney cunningly pleads for her innocence is way, way too long. A little less dialogue, and a little more suspense would have helped this film, although it is really not bad.

But... The major attraction in this film is not the story, which, I must say, does have some highly unexpected twists and does indeed show Chabrol's creative skills and pleasure in directing. The star of Les Innocents is no one less than the wonderful Romy Schneider, whose acting performance, charm and beauty in this film are more stunning than ever before. I am very happy that Chabrol has chosen her character as the central one, for now we can admire gracious Scheider in almost every scene. I have the impression the camera man was in love with her, and who can blame him. Romy even looks amazing in the scene where she is putting curlers in her hair. She is the perfect cast for this complicated Femme Fatale role.

Although mainly the mediteranean filming locations in combination with the outstanding weather are to be credited for providing this Film Noir with a deceptively pleasant yellow, warm glow, it is Romy Scheider's radiance and talent that make Les Innocents aux Mains Sales a joy to watch.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not half as graphic, but twice as good., 28 March 2001

If I am correct, some people practically wanted this film banned from the theaters back in 1980. Many film encyclopedias complain on the gruesome, explicit and sadistic nature of the killing scenes. Supposedly the plot would drag itself along from the one bloody execution scene to the other. It made me put off watching this film ever since I was nine.

True, the material is not suitable for the kind of nine-year-old I was. However, having now seen it at age 25 and reconsidering all the intensely negative responses to Friday the 13th, I feel as if I have just seen a different film.

Friday the 13th, or at least the version I viewed, is not the gore fest of mythical proportions that silly talk (not in the least by over enthusiastic fans) and bad reviewing have made it over the years. It is, for instance, no more explicit than that Death on the Nile film starring Peter Ustinov. There are more victims, they are being killed for no reason at all and in highly unpleasant ways, but still the scenes are not revolting or shot in an intolerable fashion. What's more: half of them are off screen.

Other comments have been that the actors are bad, the photography is lousy and, I already mentioned this, the plot drags itself along. This ‘criticism' only heightens the surprise when actually watching it yourself. Surprise, yes, because the acting is fine, the story is o.k. and the camera work is absolutely beyond reproach. It is clear Victor Miller can write a story, just as it is obvious that Sean S. Cunningham can direct. They have skillfully created this slow-pace thriller which makes proper use of the locations and breathes a natural atmosphere. The actor's performances only add to the charm of Friday the 13th. The teens are far less ‘plastic' than the ones we encounter in more recent horror films, and there is no over acting. What's more: they seem quite real and one can, I think, easily identify with them. Mr Cunningham has taken enough time to film the story realistically and this elevates him over the flashy and quick, quick, quick!!! horror directors of today. Interesting moment in this context is, for example, the one in which Adrienne king is barricading the door of her cabin. King, as well as the others by the way, is charismatic and makes for a good heroine (this being a good reason to forget about watching part 2).

And then, of course, there is Betsy Palmer. It is great to see a film diva of the past playing a surprising part like this. Her part is small but crucial and I like the traumatic background and drive Victor Miller has provided this character with.

Without giving it away, I can say the final scenes with King floating on the lake and the police on the bank are filmed with a great sense of humor. Pay attention to the expression on King's face and the moves she makes just before the -either imagined or bizarre- plot twist ‘pops up'. Harry Manfredini's unreliable ‘this is a happy ending'-melody works perfectly with the images. What makes it even more interesting is that Victor Miller said in an interview that this was actually meant as a joke, a gimmick and not as an instigation to further episodes.

Friday the 13th is a decent film if you are into thrillers and horror, and not a video nasty that should be avoided at all costs, as I was encouraged to do for years. I am glad I finally got to see that for myself.

A Woman at War (1991) (TV)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
In Praise of Martha (and the Film)., 20 March 2001

Of the three war movies that have most impressed me so far, Hanna's War (1988), The Hiding Place (1975) and A Woman at War (1991), the last one is the most skillfully directed. But the film has another advantage: Martha Plimpton. She is one of the most charismatic and talented American actresses I know of and in my opinion those models with double names rather than actresses who are currently making a career in Hollywood should take a look at Martha and take her genuine radiance and convincing acting as an example.

Along with this, I have the impression A Woman at War is one of the last Hollywood films (filmed in Warsaw by the way) that was not hindered by the over-glamorous and slick looking Titanicesque photography which for me partly ruins otherwise nice films such as The Astronaut's Wife, The Sixth Sense and most of all American Beauty. Could it be Panavision changed its lenses or Kodak its film since then? Probably not, it is merely a result of today's producer, director and camera boss focusing on the overall 'clean' look of the film rather then on impact and naturalness and hence they instruct the lighting crew to make that light a little softer, a little warmer and tell the make up department to apply that make up a little thicker, a little harder. A Woman at War is 'pure' and timeless in its looks and is a joy to watch.

To come back to Martha Plimpton, I think her performance in this film is magnificent. Her character, Helene, really comes to life. However, I had expected -and I am aware this is rather a matter for scriptwriter and director- a somewhat more emotional response (sadness perhaps?) to the tragic things she experiences: losing relatives and being confronted with the corpses of murdered companions. Of course times are rough, and Helene must be tough in order to survive the war and fight in the resistance, but I now get the impression that it is a taboo thing for the heroic character, who is, if I am correct, not only a tough fighter but also a sensitive, social and young girl, to cry or be shocked and desperate.

Yet, the film stands solidly and what is quite pleasant and exceptional is that the story is not melodramatic and does not rely on easy sentimental scoring. Some story lines are left open and there are many interesting but believable plot twists. For instance, in the end we are still not certain, like Helene, whether Eric Stoltz's character was basically good or has betrayed his friends. Great in this light is the scene in which Helene runs from a streetcar because she runs the risk of being caught carrying weapons and as a result is faced with a dilemma, and the one in which Franz comes in to identify her as a criminal and shows nothing but his own real(?) face.

A great story, greatly told. With a wonderful lead actress, which I hope will soon start in another lead role: Martha Plimpton.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Impressive and Shocking, 20 March 2001

It sounds a bit awkward to call a film about war and holocaust shocking since many of us will know only too well of the horrors that war and violence brings. By using the adjective 'shocking' I do not intend to imply that I am surprised about the things told about in this film or that I was formerly unaware of them, it is just that I am very much impressed by the way in which this film shows how crazy and incomprehensibly horrific it is to kill each other off, either with or without a 'reason'.

The first part of the film focuses on Hanna's successful participation in the Hungarian resistance. Maruschka Detmers would never have won an Oscar for this performance, due to inconsistent directing, but still her acting is solid enough and she has enormous charisma. She is cast very well as Hanna and immediately has our sympathy. Her very beautiful looks help, of course, but that has nothing to do with her being simply a good actress, playing a good part.

Certain inconsistencies keep occurring in Hanna's War. I sometimes get the idea director Menahem Golan (often despised for The Gianni Versace Murder) was in a rush and should actually have allowed a few more takes per scene. On the other hand, I am very thankful he made this impressive and thought-provoking film and as I am very positive about it, I think he did a good job.

The second half of the film is the most interesting and tragic one. It focuses on Hanna's suffering (beware of Donald Pleasence's scary portrayal of the cruel and sardonic captain Rosza) and intensely shows the injustice and horror that comes with hate and violence and war. I receive Hanna's War, especially the second half, as a strong anti-war film and for that alone Golan deserves credit. It is also this second half in which Maruschka Detmer's talent comes out, creating a character which goes into film history as one of the most speaking, strong and tragic ever portrayed. It is also great to see Ellen Burstyn, whose appearance and acting style always remind me of Romy Schneider, who -had she been alive and cast- would have made a similar effective contribution to Hanna's War.

The tragic impact of the second half and the desperate tension which is sometimes replaced by hopeful prospects and good news lead to a number of final scenes which show something so unexpected, so moving and poetic in its tragedy that it hit me like a bomb and left me in tears. And when I realized once more it wasn't even fiction, it all actually happened, I found myself in even more tears. The image of Hanna portrayed by Maruschka Detmers will be in my mind forever.

3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Not very good, but fair enough., 20 March 2001

Okay, this film is not very good. But, I happen to be a great fan of Kate Jackson. I always hope her next film will be an independent art house film directed by someone like Todd Solondz, or a European project. Somehow few people seem to realize what a great actress Kate Jackson is, who would do great in a film like Happiness, or Billy Elliot. At the same time I am surprised that block buster directors do not notice her. Show a little courage, casting directors!

On the other hand, it could be that Jackson always shows up in television films voluntarily. She is doing a good job and has been very productive over the years, so it is not really a loss. And these television films are sometimes not even that bad. Coming from the Netherlands I have seen a lot worse. I am genuinely impressed by her performances in The Stranger Within, Armed and Innocent and Empty Cradle.

As I said earlier, What Happened to Bobby Earl ( a typical t.v. movie title) is not a very good film. The characters are quite flat and the best example of this is the 'bad woman' who tempts Bobby to walk the criminal path. She is the stereotypical femme fatale, dressed in black and red designer clothes and living a meaningless, expensive life.

Teaming up Rose, Jackson's character, with the insurance agent who is after the bad ones is very unrealistic. His character, I don't care whether based on reality, should have been left out altogether and is just one of the numerous weaknesses in this film. Lack of events, bad plot structure, length, needless melodrama, uninteresting filming locations and bad actors in supporting roles are others.

However, I very much am in favor of the social point that is being made in this film. When Bobby is given a revolver for his graduation by his friend, his mother Rose (Jackson) is astonished and shocked and cries out "What the hell kind of a gift is that to give to a college graduate!" and "Criminals have guns. Criminals and the police..."

I don't think we would see Rick Schroder or Charleton Heston in a film that makes a social comment like that.

Spoiling the Fun., 5 February 2001

Since practically all reviews here are positive, it feels like spoiling the fun writing negatively about Perdita Durango. I must be one of the few people who does not like this film one bit. Violent and morbid in a senseless and provocative way, Perdita Durango is hardly an original in the flow of 1990s movies that lack any form of subtlety and atmosphere, and go overboard on abuse, cursing and violence because the artistic minds that spawn this nonsense all agree that 'this is how life really is'. How tough and rugged and at the same time sincere the people who made this film must be and yes, we should all be on our knees thanking them for making these realistic and honestly daring films which are supposedly so terrific that they are beyond criticism. Just write a mind-numbing and aggressive screenplay, bring money in the til and you become a cinematic genius (like Barry Gifford) and will receive carte blanche treatment all over the place.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Gripping, thought-provoking and entertaining too., 2 February 2001

Sur la Terre comme au Ciel is a very gripping film. Marion Hansel and the script writers have taken a surrealist point of departure in order to tell a thought-provoking and moving story which is not void of social criticism.

A single woman named Maria, played wonderfully by Carmen Maura, is happy to be pregnant. One day, when she is at the doctor's, she talks to an inconsolable young woman whose unborn baby has told her he does not want to be born. Nobody believes her. Only a while later, Maria hears her own baby in the womb uttering the same refusal, and this is the beginning of a chain of haunting events. As she starts to realize that all babies in the world object to being born because the world has become commonplace for violence, hate and cruelty, she meets with a wall of disbelief and disrespect. Most people regard her as a paranoid schizophrenic, a raving emotional wreck. Very strong in this context is the scene where Maria, by surprise, is placed in a discussion forum on a televised talk show and makes no disguise of her fears.

Very successfully Hansel has interwoven social comment through this drama/thriller. Without patronizing or pouring out gallons of gloom over the viewer she makes one good point after the other. There is comic relief too from time to time, and there is a sense of hope for the future. Next to Maura's character and her young friend Tom, there is depth even to the minor characters. A great moment in the film is where Maria meets with a former physicist who has parted with his profession because he has seen with his own eyes that scientists are going way too far when it comes to genetic research and - engineering.

Marion Hansel's strong directing is reinforced by good writing, a strong cast, a good steady camera crew and a haunting soundtrack that sets the mood right from the opening titles. If there is ever going to be an American remake of this film, M. Night Shyamalan or Robert Zemeckis would be appropriate directors for the project, but Marion Hansel herself is the one to call on first.

Contact (1997)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Robert Zemeckis' best film so far, 1 February 2001

Contact is Robert Zemeckis' best film so far. In this film about a driven scientist -played by a driven Jodie Foster- every scene is interesting and the story manages to thrill all the way through. There are so many characters, locations, events and situations in it that are captivating and worked out splendidly that watching this film is a very pleasant experience from start to finish. Sure, there are some weaknesses, like having Jodie Foster drink beer straight from a bottle at the beginning to tell us she may be a scientist but is also a working girl, and having her character make love to Matthew McConaughey's character to tell us she is not male-shy or lesbian. Another flaw is the stereotypical representation of the religious fanatic who, of course, has long white hair. But at the same time it is a nice caricature and it works in the film. And the fact that it is not very realistic sometimes (John Hurt's character is utopian) only adds to the strength of Contact.

The film is not just a science fiction fantasy, it also satirises religion, the academic world, the military and media hysteria. A crucial element in this light is Tom Skerritt's character of an ambitious, sanctimonious and arrogant academic who likes to show off with other people's achievements as if they were his own. I was never much of a fan of Skerritt, but in Contact he is well-cast and he does a good job.

Most of the credit goes to Foster, writer Carl Sagan and Robert Zemeckis. With this film Mr. Zemeckis has convinced me that blockbuster directors can be talented, creative and original directors. I can't bear to think of the results if they had called in someone like James Cameron to direct this film.

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