Author Archives: thecinemacritic

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021) Review

Prisoners-of-the-Ghostland-1-1

Prisoners of the Ghostland

Time: 103 Minutes
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Hero
Sofia Boutella as Bernice
Bill Moseley as The Governor
Director: Sion Sono

In the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber gets sprung from jail by a wealthy warlord whose adopted granddaughter has gone missing. He offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct in five days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman — and his own path to redemption.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I was actually quite excited for Prisoners of the Ghostland. One of the biggest selling points (which was used to market the movie) is that lead actor Nicolas Cage said that it might be the wildest movie he’s ever made, which is saying a lot considering his reputation for being in wild movies and/or being wild in some of his movies. So that combined the simple yet over the top premise, I was looking forward to it. The actual film didn’t quite deliver as I hoped it would.

FE65OuVXEAABFEI

The premise is straightforward, a bank robber played by Nicolas Cage has bombs attached to him and he’s given a certain amount of time to rescue a woman before the bombs go off. I liked how the film started, and it showed some promise. It is a mash up of genres, with it being a western, samurai and post apocalyptic film, and it’s certainly impressive for that. However I had a sinking feeling as it approached the end of the first act, as its many issues reared their heads. The script is poorly written, and not always in the campy B-movie way. Despite the premise and the over the top nature, Prisoners of the Ghostland is surprisingly dull. It meanders a bit too much in the first half and I had mostly tuned out at the halfway point. Not much actually happens in the movie, and in the scenes where nothing was happening, I struggled to find out what the point of them were. It seemed like it was trying to build lore in these scenes, but even from that perspective the execution was lackluster.  On that comment from Cage, its definitely not one of the wildest movies he’s made but it is on the Weider side. However, it feels somewhat low effort and more like its weird for the sake of being weird, and it comes across rather hollow. It only picks up again when it enters into the climactic final battle in the third act. If the movie was just the climax it would’ve been a highly enjoyable throwback to over the top B-movies. However it is stretched to an entire movie length, and even at 100 minutes long it is tedious to watch.

E_dLqCsWQAIEXh2

Nicolas Cage is in this movie and as expected this movie is definitely trying to play to his skills of being over the top. However to put it bluntly, if I was to make a list of the top 10 over the top Nicolas Cage movies/performances, Prisoners of the Ghostland wouldn’t come close to making it. He’s certainly over the top and lets loose in some moments. Otherwise he seems strangely restrained, probably because there’s not much of a character for him to play here, it’s just like he’s a parody of action leads. He makes the movie easier to sit through, but he somehow feels out of place with the rest of the movie. Sofia Boutella is the only actor in the movie who isn’t over the top, she’s playing the woman who Cage is trying to rescue. She’s decent in her part but she was very underused and not given much to do here. Every other actor is over the top and ‘weird’ but there’s not much of a character for them to play.

image

Part of the hype for Prisoners of the Ghostland was the director Sion Sono, I haven’t seen any of his movies but I heard that he’s quite unique and ‘crazy’ as a filmmaker. With this film there’s certainly a lot of flare to his direction. The cinematography is fantastic, the practical sets are impressive, and the action isn’t anything special but is nicely stylised and fun to watch.

Screen-Shot-2021-01-26-at-10.05.29-PM

I was rather disappointed in Prisoners of the Ghostland. Despite the premise, its just rather dull to sit through, especially the middle hour of the film. It does have some strengths, Nicolas Cage was enjoyable to watch despite being underutilised, I liked the mash up of different genres, and a lot of the technical aspects are impressive. At the very least, it has me interested to check out Sion Sono’s other work, but by itself, Prisoners of the Ghostland is just fine at best.

King Richard (2021) Review

rev-1-KGR-05637r_High_Res_JPEG

King Richard

Time: 145 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Will Smith as Richard Williams
Aunjanue Ellis as Oracene “Brandy” Price
Saniyya Sidney as Venus Williams
Demi Singleton as Serena Williams
Tony Goldwyn as Paul Cohen
Jon Bernthal as Rick Macci
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green

Armed with a clear vision and a brazen, 78-page plan, Richard Williams is determined to write his two daughters, Venus and Serena, into history. Training on tennis courts in Compton, Calif., Richard shapes the girls’ unyielding commitment and keen intuition. Together, the Williams family defies seemingly insurmountable odds and the prevailing expectations laid before them.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I’ve been hearing about King Richard for the past months, especially in the lead up to awards season. I knew that essentially it was about Venus and Serena Williams and their father, who would be played by Will Smith (who was particularly getting awards hype). It looked like a typical sports biopic and while that mostly turned out to be the case, I thought it was pretty good.

king-richard-te-inline-211117-c98eb7

It should be noted that this isn’t exactly a movie about Venus and Serena. King Richard is executively produced by both sisters and while the movie is about them to a degree, it is deliberately focused on their father Richard Williams, and how he helped their rise with his support and guidance. It does make it interesting to put it from the perspective of the father instead of the soon to be stars. As someone who knew about the two tennis players but didn’t know much about their stories, I found it interesting, and I was invested in what was happening. It is a sports biopic, but it is essentially a character study for the lead character, who is a complicated person. Despite it being a sports movie of sorts, it isn’t super focussed on the sports, and avoids most of the sports tropes. It is definitely firmly in the crowd pleaser category, and it’s a very effective feel-good movie. With that said its definitely not very special as far as biopics go. Its very by the numbers and cliché in many ways, there are conventional biopic tropes here and here, and there are big inspirational speeches and moments. There’s also dialogue that’s very unsubtle, especially about the sister being destined for greatness. Also it does seem very safe in parts, such as with the inner conflicts with Richard. With that said, it still has strong emotional beats and uplifting moments which really worked for me, so I was more than able to look past the sameness. King Richard is a very long movie at around 2 hours and 30 minutes, and after watching what I just saw, I thought that was a little excessive. With that runtime you would think that it would’ve focussed even more time on the sisters, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Even though I did like the movie and I wouldn’t say that I was that bored, the drawn out nature of the film turned out to be a determinant to it.

KR

For as solid as the story and writing is, it’s really the great performances which make the film work as well as it does. Will Smith plays Richard Williams, and this very well could be the best performance of his career. Its a flawed and nuanced character he’s playing and fully invests himself into, and gives a commanding performance. It definitely doesn’t stop with him though, Aunjanue Ellis is great as Richard’s wife and the mother of the Williams sisters, and Jon Bernthal is really good as a tennis coach. There’s also Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton who play Venus and Serena Williams respectively, and they do great jobs at playing them. The second half has more of a focus on Venus, and Sidney plays her part very well.

Screen-Shot-2021-11-02-at-10.19.57-AM

The direction from Reinaldo Marcus Green wasn’t anything special, but competent enough by sports biopic standard. Its shot and edited quite well (length aside), and the scenes with tennis are well shot and given enough tension.

16373842593825

King Richard is a very familiar and typical inspirational sports biopic but its nonetheless quite good. I was invested in the story, it’s well made, and the performances from everyone were great and carried the film. I think it is worth watching at the very least.

The King’s Man (2021) Review

DF-08851_R

The King's Man

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Ralph Fiennes as Orlando, Duke of Oxford
Gemma Arterton as Pollyanna “Polly” Wilkins
Rhys Ifans as Grigori Rasputin
Matthew Goode as Captain Morton
Tom Hollander as King George, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas
Harris Dickinson as Conrad Oxford
Daniel Brühl as Erik Jan Hanussen
Djimon Hounsou as Shola
Charles Dance as Herbert Kitchener
Director: Matthew Vaughn

One man must race against time to stop history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds as they get together to plot a war that could wipe out millions of people and destroy humanity.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

The King’s Man was the upcoming prequel to the Kingsman movies which had been repeatedly pushed back. I really like Kingsman: The Secret Service, it was a lot of fun. The sequel titled The Golden Circle was not quite as good as the first movie, but I still enjoyed it. However, a prequel might’ve been what the franchise needed, with a very different setting and completely different characters. However with every delay of the movie, I felt less confident in it. It’s finally arrived and thankfully I actually ended up enjoying it, but its not without some issues and questionable decisions.

The-Kings-Man-Trailer-Is-Everything-I-Love-About-the-Kingman-Movies-

The King’s Man takes place a century earlier prior to the first two movies, and while I do like this new film, I still don’t think it needed to exist. It didn’t really add anything to the Kingsman lore. I will say that it doesn’t heavily rely on the viewers having watched the first two movies. You might miss some of the appeal if you haven’t watched the first movie at least though. The pacing was very inconsistent. The first third of the runtime introduces everything, so it takes a while to get going. Even then, for much of the runtime, it feels like a film made up of events and sections rather than a continuous story. It isn’t clear where everything leads to, and there’s little to no flow to it. For what its worth though, the third act is consistently fun. I found myself only a little invested in the plot. From a writing and story perspective, The King’s Man seemed to lack the energy that the other two movies did, and part of that is the setting. Also, the characters weren’t that interesting. Rasputin was fun to watch, I also liked Ralph Fiennes and even his character’s son to a degree, their relationship is given enough attention that I was willing to care about it. However, I only liked some of the other characters because of the actors, nothing about the characters with how they’re written. Even the villains outside of Rasputin aren’t as entertaining, it’s a cliched conspiracy made up of select people around the world. Its certainly different to the Bond-esque villains of the last two movies but the execution here is rather average. Obviously with this being a Kingsman movie, it is not historically accurate, but there are some moments where it does attempt at a level of accuracy to WW1, which is beyond strange. It’s like Matthew Vaughn wanted a bonkers Kingsman movie set during WW1 but he felt obliged to be somewhat accurate. I can’t tell if that’s better or worse, because tying the two together make some of the darker scenes (and those based on true events) come across as tone deaf.

the+king's+man[1]

One notable problem with the movie is that the tone is just all over the place and messy. The King’s Man definitely has its light-hearted, silly and fun moments, like with Rasputin and some of the action scenes. However, a lot of the situations are on the more on the serious side of the coin. That’s largely because Matthew Vaughn anchored the setting to World War 1. There’s real people involved in the plot with Rasputin and King George, and we even see Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated in this. There’s plenty of scenes featuring a lot serious political and military talk, which was quite misguided to me. There’s even also long sequences focusing on grimy war battlefields. By focusing on the horrors of war and being somewhat accurate to the setting, it damages the movie in some ways. The thing is that Vaughn actually does some of the handle the serious stuff quite well, the battle scenes are surprisingly well done and given the right amount of weight. The problem is that they don’t fit into this movie all that well. I am one of the people who enjoys The Golden Circle, even though I know of its faults very well. Honestly though, at least the over-the-top nature makes more sense compared to the serious take here. Making it too serious might’ve been misguided, but the worst part of all is how The King’s Man jumps between the two, the tones don’t work together. Rhys Ifans hamming it up as Rasputin really contrasts with the serious tone and the large battle scenes that feel like Matthew Vaughn is trying to make his own 1917. I will say that it is worth sticking around for the mid credits scene, because its one of, if not the most, insane credits scenes I’ve ever seen. Its honestly quite perplexing that it exists, you really just have to see it for yourself.

Kings-Man-Behind-The-Scenes-Look

There is a good cast involved, though not all of them are used to their fullest potential. Ralph Fiennes is one of the best parts of the movie and he absolutely delivers in the lead role. He more than proves himself a great action star, much like Colin Firth did in the first two movies. He adds so much to his character, probably even more than he needed to. He’s fun in the action and comedy scenes, but he also brings the emotion. Harris Dickinson plays his son, he does a good job and I like the relationship that the two have. Gemma Arteton and Djimon Hounsou are decent in their parts, even if their characters aren’t that memorable or great. Tom Hollander also plays Tsar Nicholas, Kaiser Wilhelm and King George, and is very entertaining in those parts. The most marketed villain of the movie is that of Rasputin, played by a wonderfully scene chewing Rhys Ifans. One could say that he might be doing too much, but I love how much he goes for it. It’s just a shame that we don’t get to see him as much I would’ve liked, and he is nothing more than a notable henchman. He certainly had better screen presence than the other villains, who are just surface level caricatures. The villains are a convoluted and conspiracy consisting of a group of people led by a shadowy leader called The Shephard. His goal is for the entire world to go to war. While the villain is over the top to a degree, he’s not at the level of Samuel L. Jackson or Julianne Moore from the previous movies. He is a moustache twirling madman that shouts a lot, but is still rather bland and cliched. I know that Julianne Moore’s villain in the last movie wasn’t exactly the best, but The Shephard is worse if only because of how much the film tries to hide his identity for the sake of the twist. As a result it doesn’t let you connect with the character in any way, and giving him a face and more dialogue would’ve helped the story and the character. They rely on the ultimate reveal at the end, it doesn’t even pay off and it isn’t surprising.

the-kings-man-teaser-rasputin-rhys-ifans-1280x640[1]

Matthew Vaughn’s stylised direction is present once again, very much to the film’s benefit. His trademark brand of over-the-top hyper action is on full display here, and its where the film is at its best. It has great choreography, its very well shot, full of energy, and they are well depicted. Its not as great as some of the action from the first movie or even the second, but I did like them. The war moments are intense and well crafted, there are actually a lot of scenes that work as a serious war drama, and deliver on hard hitting emotion.

THE-KINGS-MAN_NEW-TRAILER_FOX_HARRIS-DICKINSON_RALPH-FIENNES_MATTHEW-VAUGHN_[1]

I enjoyed The King’s Man, I liked the performance of Ralph Fiennes and Rhys Ifans, and the action was very entertaining. However it is definitely a mess, especially with the writing and tone. Honestly I can’t tell whether this or The Golden Circle is better, I certainly feel more inclined to rewatch the latter. Matthew Vaughn would be well advised to not make a sequel to this movie and just stick to making Kingsman movies set in the present day. On top of already playing with real life material from WW1 in this movie and shouldn’t be pushing it further (that credit scene is rather daunting), its just not the right setting for this franchise.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) Review

https25253A25252F25252Fcdn.sanity.io25252Fimages25252Fxq1bjtf425252Fproduction25252F215304dadf60436d9cb59cefd3ac4067c51916fb-6000x4000-1

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Lord Macbeth
Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth
Corey Hawkins as Macduff
Brendan Gleeson as King Duncan
Harry Melling as Malcolm
Director: Joel Coen

A Scottish lord becomes convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland. His ambitious wife will do anything to support him in his plans of seizing power.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

There are already plenty of adaptations of Macbeth out there, and it’s a little hard for me to get into any movies based on Williams Shakespeare’s work (mainly because of the dialogue). However, Joel Coen taking on the material had me highly anticipating his Macbeth movie, along with adding actors like Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. The Tragedy of Macbeth is an atmospheric, and moody Shakespeare adaptation, and with strong performances and direction.

TragedyOfMacbeth_MacbethLooksUp

There’s not really much to say about Macbeth’s writing since its still very much Shakespeare’s classic play. With that comes with the same confusing Shakespeare language and unless you’re very familiar with that kind of speech, it would probably be a problem for you. So if you’re going to watch it, its either best to watch it with subtitles on, or read up about the play beforehand to know what was happening. It was great getting to watch the movie in cinemas, but I do admit that I wished I had subtitles on. Thankfully, I knew the general plot having watched the 2015 Macbeth movie so I had an idea of where everything was going. I didn’t understand what was being said most of the time, but I expected that when I willingly watched a Macbeth movie. There really wasn’t anything new brought to the story thematically, it’s just the distinct style, but I guess that’s all that was needed.

image

There is a great cast involved. Denzel Washington is fantastic as Macbeth and delivers a powerhouse of a performance. Masterful, compelling, and a great on screen presence, its one of his best acting works I’ve seen from him. Frances McDormand is also really good as Lady Macbeth, she is in great command of every scene she’s in. Kathryn Hunter is also notable in her croaking, contortionist turn as the three witches, she is incredible in her scenes. Other actors like Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, and Harry Melling also play their parts very well, but its Washington, McDormand and Hunter that stand out the most.

NYFF-2021-Film-Review-The-Tragedy-of-Macbeth-Weird-Sisters

As said before, Joel Coen directs this, and The Tragedy of Macbeth is very different from anything that the Coen brothers have done before. Its very bold and unconventional, it’s a technical marvel and one of the biggest strengths of the movie.  The presentation is haunting, and the world portrayed here is very off kilter. The cinematography from Bruno Delbonnel is easily one of the best from 2021. In a way it is very minimalist but incredibly effective. You get caught up in its gorgeous black and white photography, with the German expressionism inspired and brutalist look, along with the 4:3 framing making the film feel very contained. The lighting, dense shadows, and the use of fog and smoke go towards giving it a haunting atmosphere. The sets are classic and old school, it felt like stage play sets with grandiose buildings. The editing is simple yet effective, and the transitions are seamless. The sound design is striking, and the score works incredibly well for the tone of the movie. An impressive part of the movie is that it manages to be both theatrical and cinematic. On a cinematic level it goes into the surreal with the memorable imagery. Yet it also works on a theatrical level, aspects like the dialogue heavy interactions, the long monologues, characters entering and exiting scenes, they all work together.

1634582933996_1256x707_thumbnail

The Tragedy of Macbeth is very much an art film and a Shakespeare movie, so it definitely isn’t for everyone. But if you know what you’re getting into, I’d say that it is well worth a watch. It’s a superb technical achievement from the direction, cinematography and editing, and it has some excellent performances, especially from Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand and Kathryn Hunter. At the very least, it stands out as the Coens’ most distinct works.

Don’t Look Up (2021) Review

Leonardo-DiCaprio,-Jennifer-Lawrence,-Meryl-Streep,-and-Jonah-Hill-in-Dont-Look-Up

Don't Look Up

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language, nudity & drug use
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy
Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky
Rob Morgan as Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe
Cate Blanchett as Brie Evantee
Meryl Streep as Janie Orlean
Jonah Hill as Jason Orlean
Mark Rylance as Peter Isherwell
Tyler Perry as Jack Bremmer
Ron Perlman as Colonel Benedict Drask
Ariana Grande as Riley Bina
Scott Mescudi as DJ Chello
Himesh Patel as Phillip Kaj
Melanie Lynskey as June Mindy
Director: Adam McKay

Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I remember Don’t Look Up at one point being one of my most anticipated films of 2021. It has a massive cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet and more. I also liked Adam McKay’s more recent dramatic work with The Big Short and Vice, and I was interested in him doing a full on satire with his latest film. However as it approached its release date, I had my doubts. The trailers weren’t the best and the reactions coming out of it weren’t exactly confidence inspiring. Still I gave it a chance and overall I’m prepared to say that I like it, though I completely understand why some people dislike it.

FHybZZXXEAEAyL_

I do like the premise of the movie, with the lead characters trying to warn the world about a coming disaster while the world doesn’t listen, definitely works for a satire. It is a comedy, and while I wouldn’t say it failed, most of the humour didn’t work. There are funny jokes throughout but not as many as you’d hope for. I was generally entertained throughout, even if it was never that great in the first two acts, just a mildly funny comedy with very mixed satire (more on that later). The movie is around 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and it really didn’t need to be that long. I wouldn’t say that I was bored during the movie, but it all felt very drawn out and not a lot happens or is said to really justify that length, and the comedy and satire isn’t good enough to fully sustain things all the way through. I feel like on rewatch I’d find it harder to get through. Strangely enough, it gets into much more dramatic territory in the third act, and its surprisingly quite effective, and its far better than what came earlier. Looking back at the rest of the movie, it actually works much better as a terrifying and depressing end of the world downer (with darkly comedic elements) than a smart political and social satire. Another issue is that the tone is all over the place. McKay’s last two movies jumped between drama and comedy as well, but it feels messier in Don’t Look Up. Until the third act, it just can’t seem to decide whether it’s trying to be an apocalyptic drama and a mostly straight-faced satire, or a full on spoof. I think it needed to either be more straight faced about it or lean much further into absurdity.

screenshot-2021-12-27-at-120452

While I enjoy the movie, the actual satire is one of the weaker elements unfortunately. One of the biggest criticisms I’ve seen of Don’t Look Up is that its very obvious and not subtle at all, much like McKay’s last two movies. And I’ll always stay true to my belief that its not inherently bad if a film is more obvious than subtle. Sometimes it is refreshing for a movie to be more direct about things. The problem is that a lot of the satire just feels a bit too obvious, in the sense that its too easy. For example, many of the characters are caricatures meant to represent types or groups of people, but they feel very overdone and a little lazy, the upbeat news anchors, the president and politicians who doesn’t know what they’re doing, dumb celebrities, etc., and McKay doesn’t do anything with them beyond the obvious. There’s nothing particularly daring or insightful said in this film, and the caricatures and not-subtle messaging makes the film hard to be engaging. I will say that some of the ways that people respond in the movie is like how people would respond in real life. However for every one of those moments, there’s moments where the satirising of aspects of today’s society isn’t quite right. An example is when Jennifer Lawrence’s character becomes a meme of sorts, but the memes that are very displayed are outdated top-text and bottom-text meme formats from the 2000s. It doesn’t break the movie or anything but moments like these go towards the film not fully succeeding at being a satire of today. While I wouldn’t say that the movie talks down to people and is condescending (although I can see why people would see it that way), there is a general sense of self-importance, and the feeling that they are more insightful and smarter than they really are. Part of that is the fact that the comet in the film is intended as a metaphor for climate change, and the movie is apparently meant to urge people to take it seriously. If we look at the movie from this perspective, Don’t Look Up really only spreads awareness that climate change exists and does and says nothing beyond that, at most its only preaching to the choir. Also when you really think about it, the comet doesn’t really make for a particularly good metaphor for climate change, especially in the context of the film (without spoiling anything). I wouldn’t normally look this deep into a movie like this, but McKay and his co-writer really seem to believe that they are saying something important about climate change, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

dont-look-up-review

One of Don’t Look Up’s biggest selling points is its absurdly large cast, which is no doubt why so many people wanted to check it out in the first place. While I wouldn’t say that any of these actors are even close to giving career best performances in this movie, most of them are pretty good in their parts. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence play astronomers who discover the comet heading for Earth and try to warn people about it. This is the third of DiCaprio’s more comedic performances after The Wolf of Wall Street and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he has shown himself to be surprisingly great at comedy. He’s also really good here at portraying his stressed and panic stricken character, and he especially has a great and notable rage sequence in the second half of the movie. Lawrence is also great and entertaining, she’s especially good in the scenes of comedy. DiCaprio, Lawrence and Rob Morgan (who is also great) are the best performances in the movie because they were the only performances and characters that actually felt somewhat grounded and felt like actual characters, in contrast to every other actor. When Meryl Streep showed up as the president, at first I thought she was phoning her performance, but I actually think she’s pretty good. I soon came to realise that most major actors in the cast play an over the top and obvious caricature, and so they all feel underutilised to a degree. With that said I think most of them actually work in their parts. The highlights for me were Jonah Hill, Timothee Chalamet, and Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman is also a scene stealer in his 5 minutes. So while it is disappointing that this stacked cast weren’t really utilised to their fullest potential, at least most of them gave decent performances. Notice that I said ‘most’ instead of ‘all’, the sole exception is Mark Rylance, I have no idea what he was doing in this movie. Rylance plays a tech billionaire, and I definitely get the point of his character. He’s a riff on Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and every other rich tech CEO right now, and it makes sense for that kind of character to be in this movie. However, his performance is so weird and strange from his line deliveries and the way he decides to play the role, and not in a good way. I think the best way I can describe it as he’s trying to play Joe Biden playing Elon Musk. I know that everyone is an over-the-top caricature in this movie, but Rylance is on a completely different wavelength from the others that he feels completely out of place.

2b9fc-16404474301959-1920

Adam McKay’s directing style in this movie won’t work for everyone. Most notable is the editing, which is very fast, messy, and often cuts to a lot of brief clips and images, similar to what McKay did with The Big Short and Vice. If you hated the editing in Vice, you’ll probably hate the editing in Don’t Look Up too. I will admit that I liked the editing in McKay’s unofficial political trilogy, but while I mostly liked the editing in Don’t Look Up, some of it got on my nerves a little bit at points. However, I will say that it actually does work very well in some moments in the third act and worked to give some parts some emotional punch to them. Editing aside, a lot of the other technical elements are strong. Linus Sandgren’s cinematography is great, for the most part its not really a movie that needs to be particularly well shot, but he does make the most of it when he can. Nicholas Britell is reliably great as the composer, and his score is one of the strongest parts of the film. Its definitely not on the level as his some of his other work like Succession or Vice, but its still great. The budget is absolutely insane at $75 million, and watching the movie, most of the film really didn’t need to have that large of a budget. With that said, the scenes involving large visual effects from comets to rockets were quite good.

where-was-dont-look-up-filmed-1640200002826

Don’t Look Up is already proving to be incredibly divisive amongst people. If you really aren’t a fan of McKay’s style from his past two movies, I think that you’ll find his latest film to be a struggle. I can completely understand why some people are really disliking the movie. I don’t think it really succeeds, particularly as a satire, and even from a comedy standpoint it could’ve been better. Still, it has its moments (both comedic and dramatic), some of the technical elements are strong, and most of the performances from the cast are decent. I recommend checking it out at the very least.

Bleeder (1999) Review

bleeder-1999-02

Bleeder

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Kim Bodnia as Leo
Mads Mikkelsen as Lenny
Rikke Louise Andersson as Louise
Levino Jensen as Louis
Liv Corfixen as Lea
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Hard-drinking Leo (Kim Bodnia) likes to hit the bars and watch gory films with his introverted pal, Lenny (Mads Mikkelsen). His girlfriend, Louise (Rikke Louise Andersson), tends to stay in at the couple’s Copenhagen apartment. Despite their differences, Leo and Louise have maintained a relationship for a long time; however, when Louise tells Leo that she’s pregnant, he senses that his lifestyle will have to change, and his long-hidden hatred of his girlfriend violently erupts.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Bleeder was the last film by Nicolas Winding Refn I had left to catch up on, it was particularly hard to find but I got access to a copy eventually. I didn’t know anything about the movie except its one of the directors earliest films and had the main trio of actors from his first film Pusher. While I wouldn’t call it one of Refn’s best by any means, I thought it was a solid early film from him.

Bleeder-1999

Bleeder is a dark and raw drama, that really focuses more on the drama than crime compared to Refn’s last film Pusher. The plot consist of two storylines, each of them following two people who are friends. One of them is of Leo, a soon to be father. The other is Lenny, an awkward film nerd who works at a video store and struggles with women. Leo’s story is the dramatic aspect of the film. It’s dark, filled with tension, and uncomfortable to watch. Essentially this storyline is a domestic drama between Leo, his wife Louise, and her brother Louis. It’s basically a character study of a man afraid of his impending fatherhood. Strangely I wanted to see more of Lenny’s story. Even though it didn’t seem to be moving towards anything, it is fun to watch his story play out, and at the very least it’s a nice break from the intensity of the Leo story. The stories are connected by the two lead characters being friends but tonally they’re very different. It’s a weird mix that I still enjoyed. The are some great comedic moments (mainly with Lenny), and the atmosphere is still bleak, ugly and there’s a feeling of hopelessness which only increases as the film progresses. The last 30 minutes are particularly sad, violent and intense. The movie is definitely slowly paced and doesn’t seem to have a drive to it, but it didn’t bother me too much.

tumblr_ny4brydqi91tdeug4o2_1280

The acting is one of the best parts of the movies, it’s great. As I said it has the main cast of the Pusher trilogy (and the main actors of each of the Pusher movies) with Kim Bodnia, Mads Mikkelsen and Zlatko Buric, all of them are really good in their parts. The best performance in the movie is probably from Kim Bodnia. He was great in Pusher, but he is even stronger here. His character starts off relatively calm but goes down a dark path over the course of the film as we see and learn more about him. The other main character is Lenny played by Mads Mikkelsen, a relatively quiet man who talks about movies and directors a lot, who’s clearly a representation of Nicolas Winding Refn himself. There’s even a joke in his first scene where he lists of a long list of directors which establishes his character very well. Mikkelsen is effortlessly watchable and likable in his part.

MV5BNGE0Mjk5NmYtNjg4Ni00ODY5LWEyYzAtZWE2OTE4YmE4NjViXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_

Nicolas Winding Refn directs Bleeder very well, and it is stylistically comparable to the Pusher trilogy. The use of handheld camerawork is effective, the visuals are dark and gritty but more polished than the first Pusher. The sound design was great too, when gunshots happen you really hear it, and the ambient soundtrack is hypnotic.

backdrop-1920

Bleeder is a bit of an odd movie with some of the writing decisions made, especially with how it mixes the two storylines together. However it is good on the whole, I was invested in the stories, the performances were good, and I liked Nicolas Winding Refn’s work as a director here. I’m very much aware that it’s very difficult to access the movie, but if you like Refn’s other movies, I do think it is worth checking out at the very least.

Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death (2005) Review

pusher-iii-im-the-angel-of-death[2]

Pusher 3

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Zlatko Burić as Milo
Marinela Dekić as Milena
Ilyas Agac as Muhammed
Slavko Labović as Radovan
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Milo (Zlatko Buric) is a drug dealer and recovering addict who’s slowly coming unraveled. While trying to prepare for his daughter Milena’s (Marinela Dekic) birthday party, he discovers the shipment of heroin he was expecting is actually Ecstasy. Milo gives the pills to small-fry dealer Mohammed (Ilyas Agac) and, as the party begins, starts using narcotics again. Things go from bad to worse when Mohammad doesn’t return, and Milo’s Albanian connection demands payment for the Ecstasy.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I have been gradually getting through Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy. The first movie was a solid standalone crime thriller, with the other two films being unintended sequels which only came as a result of Refn’s Fear X flopping. It’s strange then that both sequels manage to be overall stronger films than the first movie. Pusher III is another distinct entry for the trilogy, dark, compelling and visually stunning, it’s truly great.

tumblr_p0ek084Z4Z1wk1wdpo2_1280[1]

Pusher III acts as a finale to the trilogy with the protagonist role this time being filled by Milo, who was in a major supporting role as a known drug lord, appearing in Pusher I in a major supporting role, and appearing in Pusher II in a cameo part. The film is set over one day and focuses on Milo as he tries to juggle his business with his daughter’s birthday party. He is constantly busy trying to keep his business alive while also having to be there for his family. First of all, I really like how the film explores this character and made him compelling. At the start we see him trying to better himself considering his circumstances and work, but over time we see his surroundings pull himself back to his old self again. Also we see how tough the criminal underworld really is, in the previous two movies we see Milo the drug lord being so calm and in control, but in the third movie it really shows that he’s constantly struggling to stay alive. The film does retain the style of the previous two Pusher movies but also moves at a slower pace, with more of a focus on the lead character over the general sleaze. The youthful angst and energy of the first two movies are gone, and its just about one night of chaos, stress, anxiety, and an undercurrent of sadness. Despite how the movie is for the first half, Pusher III overall is the most depressing and bleakest movie in the trilogy. It gets to some particularly grim parts, mostly towards the end.

pusher-3-2[1]

The acting is good from everyone, but the main player here is Zlatko Buric as lead character Milo. Much is riding on Buric, as his character is key to the whole movie working and he more than delivers. His performance is complex, and he adds more depth to the character, who was already the most intriguing character from the first film. Refn and Buric do well to make Milo a somewhat likable character all things considering. In contrast to the previous two Pusher protagonists, he’s older, wiser, more rational, and has a more stable life. Zlatko was very compelling to watch as he was portraying everything that Milo goes through over the course of this one night. It is mostly the Zlakto Buric show in terms of acting, but if there was a supporting actor that is a highlight, it is Slavko Labovic, who appears in the last act and is great in his screentime.

MV5BOTRjZTc3YmYtZTE5Mi00MGFkLWIwNjEtY2I4NTRmNmRhZDM2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjI3Mjc5NzQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1497,1000_AL_[1]

Nicolas Winding Refn’s direction was as fantastic as I expected it to be. It might not reach the stylistic heights of Pusher II, but the more realistic and subdued look works better for the character of Milo. There’s some great cinematography with some fantastic use of colour, and the sound design and score really fitted the film. Despite it being less of an overt thriller compared to the first two Pusher movies, Refn still does a good job at building up tension in an effective way. For the most part Pusher III isn’t as violent as Refn’s other movies including the previous two movies… until it gets to the climax, which has by far the most gruesome and graphic scenes that he’s directed. There is a lot of blood and gore at the end, however it works for the tone of the movie.

vlcsnap-2015-04-11-15h37m39s964[1]

It is interesting to see the second and third Pusher movies end up being better than the first one, despite it being an unintended trilogy. While I still think that Pusher II is the best of the trilogy, I think Pusher III is still truly great. A dark and bleak character focused crime drama, that’s fantastically directed and led by an excellent performance from Zlatko Buric. If you watched the previous Pusher movies or even just other Refn movies, I highly recommend checking it out.

Fear X (2003) Review

fear-x-2[1]

Fear X

Time: 91 Minutes
Cast:
John Turturro as Harry
Deborah Kara Unger as Kate
Stephen McIntyre as Phil
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Harry Caine (John Turturro) is a mild-mannered mall cop whose pregnant wife is killed in the underground parking lot where he works. It seems it may have been a contract killing, and Harry becomes obsessed with finding out the details. His investigation eventually takes him to a Montana town, where reality becomes unhinged for him, and he remains disturbingly unfazed by the wintry conditions and eccentric characters. In the end, he’s not looking for revenge, just for the reason behind it all.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I knew some things about Fear X going into it. First of all, it was the first English language movie from Drive, Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon director Nicolas Winding Refn, and its an experimental crime thriller starring John Turturro which flopped, causing Refn to direct two sequels to his debut film Pusher. I’ve also noticed it’s been referred to as Refn’s worst movie, so I went in cautiously optimistic. While I think it is quite possibly his worst movie, I still liked it.

MV5BZGI1YTk4MDAtNGE1ZS00MDQ1LTkzNzYtM2RjNjM5YmYzYzgwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_

Fear X is a psychological thriller which initially appears to have a simple plot. It does have a conventional premise about someone looking for the person who killed his wife, however it is definitely not a mainstream movie. Refn takes this premise and applies his own storytelling style to it, subverting the tropes of the revenge thriller. In some ways, you could say that this is a revenge story without the revenge. I like this concept, you get a typical noir film which happens to mix surrealism and murder mystery together, and it is eerie and strange the way it is presented. In fact, many scenes of dialogue and style choices can be compared to David Lynch’s work. It is riveting, tense and unsettling throughout. The film is definitely slow and takes its time, and this will definitely turn some people off from the movie. The atmosphere isn’t strong enough to make this approach work as well as some of Refn’s other slow burners, but I liked the build up over the course of the movie. The other reason a lot of people won’t like this movie is the ambiguity, and in fact it might be too ambiguous for its own good. This is especially in the case of the ending, which really isn’t much of an ending. It leaves you feeling empty and lacks a conventional conclusion. I do admire the decision and it is bold to deliberately leave things without closure and the audience with more questions than before. I also get that it’s deliberately leaving itself to be heavily interpreted. However, I don’t think it quite sticks the landing, and I get people not liking the movie because of the ending.

161YuffywK7aoyjNRoQHle9ZWBV[1]

The acting from everyone is pretty good but really the highlight out of all of them is John Turturro in the lead role of the mall cop who’s trying to find his wife’s killer. Turturro is pretty much a perfect fit in the lead role. He and everyone else don’t have a whole lot to say, much of the acting comes from facial expressions and emoting. However, Turturro gives a really nuanced performance and was a solid casting choice for what Refn was going for.

backdrop-1920

This is another film from Nicolas Winding Refn, and as expected his work on a technical level is great. I expect amazing visuals from his movies and Fear X is no exception. The use of colour is striking, the cinematography is immaculate and it’s shot with a style which would be more prominent in his later movies, especially when it comes to hallway scenes. The sound design is also amazing, complimenting the mood perfectly, helped by the haunting score from Brian Eno. All these elements come together to create an eerie and foreboding atmosphere throughout the entirety of the film.

e85d743fa311aa4549b7f4deed6c09af[1]

I do get why Fear X bombed to a degree, it was a departure from Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous movies, and it is one of his stranger films (which is saying a lot). However it does have some strengths, I liked Refn’s different take on a revenge thriller with all its ambiguity, John Turturro gave a great performance, and it is directed and shot beautifully. At the very least, it did help Refn figure out his filmmaking voice and style. I do think it is worth watching if you liked some of NWR’s other work, but it’s probably best you do so with a good idea of what kind of movie you’re in for.

House of Gucci (2021) Review

2GH0AHM

House of Gucci

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast:
Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani
Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci
Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci
Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci
Salma Hayek as Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma
Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci
Jack Huston as Domenico De Sole
Director: Ridley Scott

When Patrizia Reggiani, an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel the family legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge — and ultimately murder.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

House of Gucci was one of my most anticipated films of 2021. It would be one of two Ridley Scott films coming that year (this and The Last Duel), it would have a large and talented cast with the likes of Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, and Al Pacino, and it would be about the Gucci family, which was something I didn’t know much about. It certainly had the potential to be one of Scott’s best, and while I wouldn’t go so far to call it that, I do think it’s quite good.

HOUSE of GUCCI

The story was intriguing, I didn’t know where it would go outside of some key moments. Essentially its about a rich family at war with itself, and it was interesting seeing the scale and progression of everything. Something you will have to know early on is that the movie is definitely campy and silly, its over the top and occasionally leans into soap opera and melodrama. This joyful campiness might not work for everyone, but I thought that it made the movie more fun to watch. I do feel like it couldn’t seem to fully decide whether it was going to be a serious drama or a campy comedy, and it mostly jumps between the two throughout. I think that the movie would’ve been better served by leaning more into the camp elements (like many of the performances do, mainly Gaga’s and Leto’s). It is a very long movie at 2 hours and 40 minutes and honestly I think it would’ve been better if it was longer, I am hoping for an extended/director’s cut from Ridley Scott in the future (since he’s known for them). The pacing is definitely steady and slow, there is a lot to cover (literal decades) and it builds up gradually over time. Sometimes the focus on particular elements was a little messy. It feels like it skips over some very important moments that would’ve helped to make the story make more sense. I did need to look up online about the real story so that I could get some context and understand some things. It also felt surprisingly very abrupt at the end, especially with how slow the film takes its time. It definitely would’ve benefitted by the third act being at least 20 minutes longer.

Brody-House-of-Gucci-Review

One of the things most known about House of Gucci are the big names involved, and they are all good in their parts. Lady Gaga is great in the lead part of Patrizia Reggiani, she really gets into her role and shows a wide range of emotions throughout the whole film. She gets plenty of opportunities to chew the scenery and shines in all her scenes. Adam Driver is reliably good and relatively restrained, Al Pacino is great, Jeremy Irons is in less scenes than many of the other actors, but he’s really good in his scenes. The most divisive performance is probably going to be that of Jared Leto. He is sporting a lot of prosthetics to make himself unrecognisable, and has a very over the top Italian accent. He is very much the comic relief of the film, and in a way his ridiculous performance really works for the campy nature of film. The scenes between him and Pacino were particularly great. Other actors like Jack Huston and Salma Hayek also bring it to their respective parts.

Lane-HouseofGucci

The direction by Ridley Scott is reliably great, and he provides the style that this film needs. It’s fantastically shot, and the production design and costumes are incredible as to be expected. The score from Harry Gregson-Williams and the soundtrack choices were great.

wTxUNxAjzG4ic3kzPlVNbuotoF7

The reaction to House of Gucci has certainly shown the movie as being divisive amongst a lot of people. It does have its issues, it could’ve been longer to flesh out some elements, and the movie would’ve benefitted from leaning further into the campier elements. On the whole though, I was engaged with the story, Ridley’s direction was solid, and the performances were great. So I think it is at least worth checking out.

Wes Anderson Films Ranked

Wes Anderson Ranked

With his latest movie The French Dispatch out now, I thought it was the best time to rank director Wes Anderson’s filmography.

No one makes movies like Wes Anderson, very few directors’ works are as instantly recognisable as his. From the symmetrical framing, colour palette, eccentric sense of humour, blending melancholy and humour, and large casts full of A list acting talents, he is undeniably distinct as a filmmaker, and one of the most compelling working today. Even in his weakest efforts, there’s something to love in each of them.

Here’s a ranking of his 10 feature films, from worst to best.

10. Bottle Rocket

3Fa0XjSyuyDrlVyYmbbten3nojg[1]

I think I’m confident in saying that most people who’ve seen Bottle Rocket would consider it one of if not the weakest movie from Wes Anderson, and I’m in this group of people. It is his first movie and feels the least like his other movies. With that said, I do think that it is worth watching, it’s interesting to see how it started, and it’s a good movie in itself.

Much of the movie isn’t what you’d expect from a Wes Anderson film (the dialogue for instance). However, if you’ve seen any of his other movies you can pick up on certain elements that would evolve into his trademarks, with the comedy, quirky characters, and even the use of colour. The character driven story is decent for what it is and is mostly paced well, but the plot probably the weakest part of the movie as it’s only mildly interesting. Despite some of the flaws, like the slower second act, there’s good stuff here. The movie is reasonably entertaining and funny throughout, and the cast are good, especially Luke and Owen Wilson. Wes Anderson hadn’t figured out his style at this point, but from this movie it still clear that he’s talented, and his work here is pretty solid for a first time filmmaker. Really good directorial debut overall.

My review of Bottle Rocket

9. The Darjeeling Limited

B0016JBCJW_TheDarjeelingLimited_UXFX1._SX1080_

The Darjeeling Limited is likely Wes Anderson’s simplest movie, it was okay, but by the end I felt like it was really missing something from it. While it does contain some of the familiar Anderson aspects including the quirky dialogue and the comedy, they don’t work quite as well in this movie. I do appreciate the smaller and more personal scale that the movie takes, but it does feel a bit bland in portions. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was outright bored while watching, but I was close to it. The writing and story were the weakest parts for me, which is quite unfortunate really since its usually pretty strong in Anderson’s movies. I was paying attention to what was happening with the story and characters, but I didn’t feel particularly engaged or invested.

Not to say that this movie is bad by any means. The movie is about three brothers with grief travelling with baggage (both physical and emotional), it was heartwarming in parts and there are some moments that are strong. The acting is also great from Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, all delivering on their parts. The direction is also pretty good from Wes, even though it is definitely more scaled back compared to his other movies. The cinematography and use of colour particularly makes it a stunning movie to watch. I think The Darjeeling Limited is still decent enough, and it has some solid moments. However, I still think it’s one of his worst movies, and it’s not one that I’m particularly inclined to revisit.

My review of The Darjeeling Limited

8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

lifeaquaticmain.0

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is one of Wes Anderson’s more unusual movies, one which initially was a box office flop and gathered a mixed response, but now is viewed more positively by critics and audiences. I do feel mixed on some parts of the movie, there was something that prevented me from being fully invested in what was happening. The script could’ve been tighter, the plot being loose isn’t a problem but it really only works if I’m invested in what was happening. Unfortunately I just wasn’t, and it wasn’t helped by the slow pacing. I also felt that something felt quite empty to the characters and story, at least on this first viewing. There are definitely some moments of the story which worked greatly but I wouldn’t say that it worked on the whole.

Despite all that, I really do admire the ambition on display. Wes Anderson went wild with the budget and put it to great use, especially with the production design. It does have Anderson’s familiar style and strengths, it was eccentric, quirky and visually pleasing, and the dialogue is good. The cast is massive, and while some of them aren’t seen as much as you’d like, Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe stand out as being particularly great at the very least. There are some entertaining moments and again some character and story moments which genuinely work. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a bit of a mess at times, but when it’s great, it’s really great. I don’t feel inclined to watch it again, but I get the feeling that I might ease into the movie more upon repeat viewings.

My review of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

7. Moonrise Kingdom

MoonriseKingdom_16-2000-2000-1125-1125-crop-fill

While it wasn’t the first Wes Anderson movie I watched, Moonrise Kingdom was the first movie I watched from him when I was aware of him as a director. It’s pretty good, even if I do have some issues with it. It is a straightforward and simplistic coming of age story, and I was generally entertained, though I wouldn’t say I was invested with the story or characters. Tonally its inconsistent (not in a good way), and the pacing is all over the place. I find that I’m really only invested with the story and characters in half of Anderson’s filmography, and I just couldn’t get into them with Moonrise Kingdom.

As expected, it has all the Wes Anderson aspects, quirky, funny, and deadpan dialogue, and unusual characters. Clearly though, there was a lot of passion put into it, even if I didn’t care much for the story or characters. The large cast are all great, including the child actors who do a good job in their parts. The highlights of the cast for me were Edward Norton and Bruce Willis, both unexpected yet fantastic fits for a Wes Anderson movie. The movie is shot well and is visually stunning, with vibrant colours, and familiar shot compositions for the director. The lower budget adds a lot to the feeling of being a relatively smaller movie. I do think Moonrise Kingdom is worth watching, it is pretty good. I just don’t have much to say about it, and I don’t love it as much as other people. I will say that if you’re looking to get into Wes Anderson as a filmmaker, I wouldn’t recommend watching this first.

My review of Moonrise Kingdom

6. Isle of Dogs

The second of Wes Anderson’s animated movies is Isle of Dogs released in 2018, which was really good. There were some slight issues I had, there were an overuse of flashbacks, and a lot of the side storylines and supporting characters, which the movie occasionally focused on, weren’t nearly as interesting as the main storyline and characters. On the whole though, I enjoyed watching it.

Once again, Isle of Dogs is an original and unique story from Wes Anderson, filled with quirky characters and deadpan humour and dialogue. The story itself surprisingly gets dark at some points, despite being a kids animated movie, and one involving dogs. There’s a great voice cast in Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murry, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig and more. Of course another highlight of the movie is that of the animation, which manages to be even better than Anderson’s work on Fantastic Mr. Fox. Like that other movie, despite being an animated film, it still felt like something made by Wes Anderson, even just looking at the direction from the framing, editing, shot composition and the like. Overall, a very good time.

My review of Isle of Dogs

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox

B003DNN0L2_FantasticMrFox_UXFX1._RI_

It’s rare that live action filmmakers who make the shift to an animated movie make said animated movies with the exact same style. Anderson pulls it off however, and in fact delivers one of his best movies.

A common theme amongst most of these movies in this list is that they are distinctly Wes Anderson movie, and Fantastic Mr. Fox is no exception. There’s a great cast involved (including George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Willem Dafoe), who give their respective characters distinct personalities and traits with their perfect voice performances and comedic timing. The story is fast paced and full of energy, it’s witty, charming, funny and all-around entertaining. And of course, the movie is incredibly well animated, with Anderson’s style perfectly translating into stop motion animation. Even though Isle of Dogs from an animation standpoint is better, FMF’s animation still holds up pretty well over a decade later. Fantastic Mr. Fox is also a movie that both children and adults can like but honestly, I think that adults would like it more and get more out of it. I might be stretching a bit, but I think this might be among my favourite animated movies.

My review of Fantastic Mr. Fox

4. Rushmore

qPjOUMmEeJFRq0BWcGRvgVwuh0O[1]

Rushmore is Wes Anderson’s second movie, and it put him on the map as someone to pay attention to. While he’s still forming his own style with this coming-of-age movie, he is more confident in his direction over his last movie. As someone who never saw it until somewhat recently, I really liked it.

The script is finely tuned to near perfection. It is funny and entertaining yet deeper than it initially appears. It jumps between being comedic, pessimistic, hopeful, sad and more, and it is all balanced out well. The characters are eccentric and quirky, yet endearing and memorable. Jason Schwartzman shines in the lead role, and Bill Murray is also great in his supporting role. Anderson’s directing style is still finding itself, but you can definitely recognise some of the elements which would go on to evolve to that point, very well made. As far as coming of age movies go, Rushmore is probably among my favourites in that subgenre.

My review of Rushmore

3. The French Dispatch

the-french-dispatch-bill-murray

Wes Anderson’s latest film made it into the top 3 of this list. This is quite possibly the most Wes Anderson movie ever and that’s saying a lot. While it might be on the more divisive end of his filmography, I honestly think he delivers some of his finest work here.

An anthology movie made up of shorter stories, I found all of them compelling to watch. It is messy and disjointed especially in tone, but that’s to be expected of an anthology movie. The French Dispatch is very delightful to watch with some great humour. Not only that but it feels very passionate, and it’s also very tender and heartfelt across all these stories. The movie also has by far Anderson’s largest cast yet, and while some of the actors like Christoph Waltz and Saoirse Ronan are regulated to mere cameos, they are all welcome additions. All the actors (especially Benicio del Toro and Jeffrey Wright) are great, with not a single weak link. The direction from Anderson is so much his style that it almost borders on self parody. He even does things that he hasn’t done before playing around with looks and filmmaking styles (including aspect ratio changes and switching between animation and live action). All in all, The French Dispatch is firmly one of my favourite Wes Anderson films, and was even better than I was expecting.

My review of The French Dispatch

2. The Royal Tenenbaums

5000

The Royal Tenenbaums has often been called one of Anderson’s best movies, and for very good reason. This family drama was one that hooked me as soon as it started, and I was consistently entertained and invested in it from beginning to end.

The Royal Tenenbaums has one of Wes Anderson’s best scripts, and it features a lot of his trademarks. It is quite entertaining and funny at times, however it is more of a drama than a comedy, and in fact was sadder than expected. The most surprising aspect was that it works really well on an emotional level, with there being an underlying feeling of sadness amongst most of the characters, and it even touches on some serious themes and topics. There is a great tonal balance between comedy and drama. You are engaged with what’s going on with the plot, as well as with the very well realised characters. The ensemble cast as expected are all great, from Gwyneth Paltrow to Luke Wilson and especially Gene Hackman. Wes Anderson directed the movie excellently with his distinct style, it’s aesthetically pleasing and with a lot of attention to detail. I thoroughly loved The Royal Tenenbaums, and I can see myself loving it more the more I come back to it.

My review of The Royal Tenenbaums

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

248875916

The Grand Budapest Hotel was one of the earliest movies I’ve seen from Wes Anderson, I really liked it when I got to watch it in cinemas in 2014. While I was catching up with watching Anderson’s other movies, it still seemed to remain my favourite of his. A rewatch confirmed it as being not only firmly my favourite of his films, but also one of my favourite movies of all time.

As expected, the movie feels quite original, the story is heartfelt, charming and endearing, and it features quirky and entertaining characters. It had me invested from beginning to end and was endlessly entertaining. It really gave a sense of adventure and escapism, while having melancholic and darker qualities and themes that you don’t expect at first. There is also a large and talented cast as expected from Wes Anderson, with the likes of Tony Revolori, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan and more delivering on their parts. The standout among them however is the pitch perfect acting from Ralph Fiennes, who gives one of the best performances in an Anderson movie. The direction and style are instantly recognisable and are some of Wes’s best work. It is visually stunning from the top-notch cinematography, to the beautiful and vibrant and production design, the great costume designs, and the many well filmed sequences. Wes Anderson took the best from his past movies and put it all into this one movie, I think this is his magnum opus. It honestly is a great place to start if you haven’t watched any of his past movies yet.

My review of The Grand Budapest Hotel

What do you think of Wes Anderson? How would you rank his films?