Sunday, February 18, 2024

Two Paragraph Review: The Favourite (2018)

 

Using the term “cinematic treat” might sound both worn out and dumbed down, but in the case of this incredible and highly unique film from Yorgos Lanthimos, the same phrase seems very much appropriate. Showcasing the rise of a downtrodden young aristocrat in the court of Queen Anne, the film merges very distinctive cinematography with great acting, incredibly written characters, and loads of well-executed humor. Apart from the camerawork, most of the film is carried by the fantastic cast, mainly the three main female characters, played by Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.

However, other actors, first and foremost Nicholas Hoult, do an amazing job of making this twisted and beautiful tale from the 18th century come to life. All the while, Lanthimos stays true to his oddball streak that made him famous with The Lobster, constantly offering movie artifacts in terms of pacing, actor delivery, and other unexpected moments. These are bits and pieces of exotic spices for a dish that is already incredibly delicious, all on its own. The Favourite is a film about the age-old themes of power, betrayal, and ambition, but Lanthimos and the crew also made it for the ages as well.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Two Paragraph Review: Reptile (2023)

 

Once you start watching Reptile, you somewhat willingly or unwillingly expect that the film will try to dazzle you with its star-studded cast. The relatively simple and narratively straightforward thriller about the murder of a young woman casts Benicio del Toro as the main character and gentle-spoken detective Tom Nichols. But, del Toro is joined by Justin Timberlake and Alicia Silverstone, followed by Eric Bogosian, Ato Essandoh, Domenick Lombardozzi, and the always fantastic Michael Pitt. Yet, along with these amazing actors, Reptile has a much stronger ace up its sleeve.

The cast, consisting of both global superstars and excellent character actors quickly comes into play. But, the thing that really impressed me about Reptile is its atmosphere. Combining natural lights and menacing sound design, as well as the odd-feeling spaces that the detectives and involved civilians inhabit, the first-time feature film director Grant Signer created something worth of an early David Lynch movie. The artistic aura of the film begins and ends with a tone of weariness and oppression, followed by a sense of imminent danger that is always just around the corner. The portrayal of the unfolding story fails to follow the same amazing atmosphere, but the film still manages to create something both unique and instantly appealing. I have a strong gut feeling that Singer’s next film could easily outdo that.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Two Paragraph Review: Rebel Moon (2023)

If you have a science fiction action film on a grand scale where "rebels" fight the "Imperium", certain issues of copyright and artistic freedom are bound to get raised. However, the director and main creative force behind Rebel Moon, Zack Snyder, clearly wasn't dissuaded by any of those notions or he simply has steel faith in his team of lawyers. Instead of giving the script an un-Star Wars redo, Snyder went full-force into the development of a two-part epic where Kora, a former super-soldier of the Imperium, is taking on her former employees for the sake of a small farming moon and its despondent inhabitants.

The biggest immediate impression that comes from watching Rebel Moon is its completely uncensored ripoffs from the Star Wars franchise. From costumes to the broader topics and relationships, all the way to the core nature of this very familiar-feeling story set in a galaxy far, far away, it was all seen before. More precisely, it was all seen in the famous George Lucas franchise. But, Snyder does all of this thievery so unapologetically and without restraint that you cannot somewhat enjoy the end-result knockoff adventure. Add a dash of predictable and unnecessary slow-mo fight sequences and the classic Snyder dish is served. However, despite all of its failings when it comes to originality and uniqueness, it is still a somewhat fun cinematographic experience which is at moment - ironically - more entertaining than a few of the new Star Wars films.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Two Paragraph Review: Leave the World Behind

Watching Leave the World Behind is somewhat of a surreal experience, where the ultimate sense is that the film is either a great work of art, or something that is just creepingly coming to a very disappointing end. However, the film from the very smart Sam Esmail ultimately managed to find its final bearing in not so much emotional space, as much as a rational idea. It states that making huge and dangerous systems might not be that smart for their creators either, which isn’t a groundbreaking concept, but still one worth reminding ourselves of.

On moments, the star-studded cast and that sense of hesitancy when talking about truly divisive US political issues makes the film seem like Don’t Look Up. However, unlike the stupendously flawed ending of Adam McKay’s brainchild, Leave the World Behind elegantly ties all of its sub-plots of two families stuck in what is more or less the end of everyday reality as they know it. It is fitting that Mahershala Ali, the best actor of the entire cast, has the pleasure and the privilege of driving the film home at its end, without being sappy or overly dramatic. Instead he simply delivers the finish in several lines, closing the storyline at the same time as the old lives close on the characters. With that, they and the film are at an end. And, after all, that’s how worlds end, don’t they?

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Film Review: The Killer (2023)

The appeal of all David Fincher work is multifaceted, but the core element among them has to be his characters. No matter what is the focus of the narrative or what is the visual setting of a film, his characters remain front and center. The Killer does not deviate from that concept and instead doubles down on it, albeit in a novel manner. 
 
The unnamed protagonist of his latest film is, like the title states, a killer. But, he is a professional hitman to whom the process of death-dealing is an organized, meticulous venture. Usually, he is very good at it. However, when the killing and hurting comes perilously close to those he loves, the process takes on a different form.

Starring Michael Fassbender, the movie is an expensive-looking action flick but which remains steadily grounded as well. The Killer is not a perfect machine of homicide, but a slightly confused professional in uncharted personal waters. Clean of all forms of empathy and compassion, the Killer slowly finds himself drifting away from these pillars of his work so far.  But, as that takes place, some new insights also open up for the same characters, all of which are masterfully captured by a manically-committed Fassbender. Yet, unlike Gone Girl, which also has a strong leading role, this film blends that role with everything else as well. There are more positive and appealing elements in the film as well. 
 
From the beginning to the end, the plot steers clear of any James Bond-like twist and turns, rejecting both glamor and mystery of international murder-for-hire. Instead, it showcases it just as any other line of work, but one that involves shooting, stabbing and murdering in general. That makes it both fresh and fun, even at the very end, which is atypical and full in line with the rest of this ordinary-looking, but very unique film. Honestly, we didn’t expect anything less from the great David Fincher and just as great Michael Fassbender.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Two Paragraph Review: The Lost City of Z (2016)

Being an early 20th century explorer might sound like an exciting occupation, but numerous films throughout the history of cinematography show otherwise. The Lost City of Z is one of them and in it Charlie Hunnam shows yet again that the drive for exploration often comes from dark emotional spaces and at a massive personal cost. In the case of the historical figure of Major Percival Fawcett which he presents, the cost gradually became more and more severe.

Through his desire to find an ancient civilization in the South American jungle - or anything else worthwhile for that matter - Fawcett saw no obstacles and deemed no price too high. The beauty and dangers of the same region are constantly underlined in the film, but so is their fleeting presence, which is more of a symbol than an actual place. Through that, Fawcett is also slowly but surely lost in an environment more akin to a dream than the real world. The end result, sadly, both in fiction in reality, was a resounding tragedy, but one that still provided the world with some meaning and Fawcett’s life with a legacy he so desperately craved.