Saturday, May 11, 2024

Film Review: Nope (2022)

Jordan Peel is probably one of the best-known relative newcomer directors in the US that emerged in recent years. If other similar filmmakers who got into Star Wars and similar mega-franchises are excluded, then Peel is likely without any competition. Yet, for me both Get Out and Us strangely missed the mark of greatness, whatever that mark might be. Most of the necessary stuff was there, but ultimately, they ended up being something that is utterly forgettable. That fact stood despite having so many great ideas and effective executions, except when it comes to the same artwork as a whole.

Nope is a completely different beast, which is something I’m more than happy to report. While I was always rooting for Peel only to feel let down, the latest film broke that streak in a fantastic manner. Like the previous two times, the film begins with a somewhat odd setup of an African-American family running a multi-generation horse ranch for the film industry. There, challenges are constant for a brother and sistem team, but one day, an extremely fast-falling coin coming from the sky and a case of the wrong place at the wrong time collide, leading to a deadly outcome.

Suddenly without their father, they have to pick up the pieces of a failing business. At the same time, the official verdict for the death is an object that accidently fell from an airplane. But, the brother, OJ doesn’t buy it and instead believes that an UFO located above their ranch might be responsible. From this premise a very interesting film arises completely spontaneously. Like other films from Peel, this too is a mixture of social commentary, drama, thriller, science-fiction and fully fleshed out horror. Here, these elements are supplemented by a healthy dose of neo-western and all of it works.

The cast does a great job, especially the toned-down OJ played by Daniel Kaluuya, as they all together progress through a very unlikely but also very scary story. Parallel to that, the nature of celebrity news is also examined and what can and could do those that are in the spotlight, especially if they lack the biological setup to process it on a human level. Also, unlike both older films from the same director, the ending on offer here is complete and resonates strongly with all of the numerous themes in the film. Nope shows, through this weird but functional mixture, that Jordan Peel’s artistic mind is maturing and forming into one of the definite cinematographic voices in the global film industry.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Film Review: Bull (2021)

 

Paul Andrew Williams, the director of Bull, takes very little to move from an ordinary-looking British drama-thriller to something very bloody and disturbing. The plot, which begins with a man called Bull, played masterfly like always by Neil Maskell, returning to his old criminal crew. After ten years, he's simply seeking his son, but the method of his search mainly involves bladed weapons and murder.

In no time at all, the film descends into a mundane version of Crow, where a man is apparently back from the grave and ready to do almost anything to complete his self-assigned objective. Here, the film shines in the form of a strange crime thriller, where the main character is a somewhat melancholic psychotic murderer from hell.

Through a series of flashbacks, we see how Bull came to his predicament and what actually took place a decade before. The past is just as violent and detached as the present, apart from the fact that everyone agrees that Bull cannot be really alive. Here, the cast of Bull 2021 manages to do a lot with not that much, being that the film's locations are as exciting as a regular UK kitchen sink drama from the 1990s. Below all of that, we also witness Bull’s true and undying (literally) love for his son.

But, to watch Bull 2021 is, at least somewhat, to descend into a dark and unscrupulous place mixing crime and family in equal measure. The very end of the film introduces a weak horror twist which was completely unnecessary, but fortunately it doesn't manage to spoil the whole experience. Vengeance, no matter how desirable by the wronged individual, is pointless and brutal, says Bull 2021, but redemption can come nonetheless. Yet, it will not come from a blade or a gun, but from saving someone.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Film Review: Smile (2022)

 

The photography of the opening of Smile is anything but horror-like, which is why it has this instant appeal for anyone who is both into and not into the same genre. Instead of dark, brooding, and partially lit spaces, Smile offers strong colors and crisp, airy environments, reminiscent of an IKEA showroom. If, that is to say, IKEA furnished mental institutions for potentially dangerous patients.

Here, not long after that, the first suicide takes place. With that, along with strong visuals and with too much meandering, the first-time feature film director Parker Finn and the movie itself establish an atmosphere of almost nightmare-like reality for its main character.

That setting is the basis of one of the more interesting horror releases in recent years. As the plot follows a psychiatrist who witnessed a violent death and becomes infected by the potential for a similar fate, the director focuses more on the feel of the movie and less on its internal logic or its progression.

That formula works marvelously well most of the time, especially in tying into concepts like personal trauma. A decade before, films like The Babadook did something similar but with a more conservative budget. In the case of Smile, money was there and some of it did go to elements that we regularly see in horror films. But, for me, it made no difference that the plot used a lot of time-is-running-out tropes present in films like The Ring or The Final Destination. It also helps that throughout the film both Sosie Bacon and Kyle Gallner do a great and convincing job as the lead roles.

The world of cinema learned time and time again that for works that embrace a genre strongly, the level of manifested originality is often irrelevant. But, it also has to be said that Smile somewhat struggles at the very end, where a simple script modification would have allowed for a much more satisfying and logical finale. However, we also have to forgive that to Parker Finn, knowing that there is a squeal in the works. After all, what is more appropriate for the horror genre than the idea of turning a single film into a series?

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Film Review: Dune: Part Two (2024)

There’s a clear and definite characteristic of both Dune films and it’s not something, at least in my experience, that the reviews tend to notice or mention. That characteristic relates to the issue of characters and their relatability. While both films come with many different individuals who have widely different personalities and goals, all of them have in common the fact that I don’t really care what happens to them.

I don’t want any righteous retribution against Baron Harkonnen, just as I don’t care if Paul Atreids becomes the emperor. I’m not invested in whether or not Chani ends up with Paul or if the Sardukars protect the Emperor or die trying to do that. I also couldn’t care less whatever Stilgar or Gurney Halleck want or aim for.

Instead, like the first Dune film, we’re left with an audio-visual spectacle that dazzles the senses, potentially tickets the mind, but does next to nothing to the way we feel about it. The second film, furthermore, even follows the Hollywood blockbuster formula. As we follow Paul in his newly instated guerilla war against Harkonens, we get the well-known 1-2-3 punch. First step is dialogue, followed by combat, followed by something mysterious and grand, like a spice trip, impressive outwordly location, or a fever dream.

All of these - including dialogues - look great, but feel void. Through this shuffle of elements, the film streams on through its plot and races to its completion. The only moment it breaks its stride is the short excursion to the Harkonne world, where again, we get the same 1-2-3 formula, but this time in black and white.

A clear pattern is emerging from Denis Villenu in his last three films - that includes the two Dune movies, but also the Blade Runner 2049 that came before them. These films feel great visually as you watch them and there is an undeniable aesthetic power to them. But, beyond the nice shots there is a plethora of cardboard cutouts representing characters and that, sadly, undermines the entire experience in a subtle but unmistakable manner.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Two Paragraph Review: The Zone of Interest (2023)

Creating a film that takes on a different perspective on the Holocaust is not a new thing. Movies like The White Ribbon and The Counterfeiters quickly captured the attention of critics and audiences alike. However, few of them are as ambiguous on the surface in their topic and presentation as The Zone of Interest is. The film follows Rudolf Höss and his family, all of whom seem completely normal people. However, Rudolf is the commandant of a German death camp and their family home lies just beyond its walls.

In the film, director Jonathan Glazer does so much with the things unsaid, unseen, and finally, even unshown. In these moments, when the camera showcases nothing but colors, red and black mainly, the full force of the film can be presented. Through these colors and background sounds, the film showcases that evil is often neither malicious nor dumb, but simply present. The resonance of that idea with the modern world is not just poignant, it is bordering on a dark prophecy that could see the whole of humanity slid into oblivion of its own making.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Enter the Gripping Myth of The Kiamichi Beast with The Quachita Beast Incident!

The legend of the Kiamichi Beast dates back over 200 years. Back then, in the area of the mountains in Oklahoma, the tales of the local Native American tribes tell of an elusive creature that is haunting the same wild woodlands. In that rugged terrain, this mythical creature has been accused of bringing fear into the hearts of men and even worse, disappearing into the night with their children. 


 

This story is the basis of a whole series of films from Master Hughes Productions. Behind them is Master Hughes, director, actor and producer who took on the legend of the Kiamichi. The series begins with The Kiamichi Beast Expedition, where Hughes, along with a veteran tracker Victor Inman, sets off into the mountains for a perilous mission. There, things that are not only dangerous for them, but also able to install unspeakable terror, lie in wait.


The successful title was followed by The Kiamichi Beast Expedition 2, Trail of the Kiamichi Beast and finally the latest entrance in the series, The Quachita Beast incident. All of the films were more greeted by the Bigfoot enthusiasts community, but also found their audience among other interested viewers. Through them, the crew around Master Hughes focused on creating the best possible experience for the audience of this series. In the foundation of each sequel was the unshakable desire of everyone involved to blend reality and imagination into an unforgeable cinematographic encounter.

Now, with The Quachita Beast Incident being available for online viewing, it is certain that a brand new generation of fans will learn about this series. If you're interested in Bigfoot and many other mysteries that our great world offers, check out the same film on TubiTv right now and watch it - it will be an unforgettable experience no matter what!

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.