Category Archives: Comedy

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006) Review

cyborg-park-chan-wook

I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

Time: 107 Minutes
Cast:
Rain as Park Il-soon
Im Soo-jung as Cha Young-goon
Director: Park Chan-wook

After his bloody `revenge’ trilogy, Korean director Park Chan-Wook directs this deliriously daft rom-com. Young-goon (Im Soo-jung) works in a maddening dead-end job making transistor radios. Flipping, she insists she is a cyborg and that she only needs to lick batteries for sustenance. She is sent to a psychiatric ward where she is befriended by schizophrenic kleptomaniac Il-Sun (Rain). The two damaged souls fall in love.

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 first heard of this movie from it’s very distinct and weird title, which definitely made it stand out. Then I heard that Park Chan-wook directed it which interests me, the movies I had seen from him are great, and I never heard of I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK before. I decided to check it out for Park’s involvement alone. It definitely wasn’t what I expected, and while I don’t love it, I do think it’s quite good.

im-a-cyborg-but-thats-ok

This movie is basically a romantic comedy that takes place in a mental hospital and about a girl who thinks she’s a cyborg, and much of the movie spends time with her going out with another patient. The story is not unfamiliar, focusing on humans who are longing to connect in a world of malnourished relationships. It’s definitely the lightest of Park’s movies if only because of how dark all his other movies are. With that said still, it does have some Park elements, a little bit of revenge and some darker moments. It is a very quirky and bizarre movie, absurd, creative and with a lot of humour, yet heartfelt and sensitive. It does have quite a bit of charm to it, and it’s like if you mixed Amelie with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and it was directed by Wes Anderson. Most the characters in the movie are confirmed to be insane and are largely impossible to identify with, but they are still fully realised and complex characters. Something interesting is that compared to other similar movies, it’s less focused on these people escaping or trying to find sanity, instead focusing more on them accepting themselves, trying to find happiness and carry on. Whether you like this film depends on if you like atmospheric films and if you like the atmosphere of this particular film. Quite frankly, not a lot happens plot wise even when stuff does happen. The story was the characters, so your enjoyment also depends on how engaged you are with the characters. To be honest, the movie doesn’t connect with me that much. It does try to be whimsical very hard, and the quirks weren’t enough to keep me engaged. The humour wasn’t quite my thing either and didn’t always work for me. The movie is just following two idiosyncratic characters in a mental institution doing their own things for 90 minutes and that wasn’t enough for me. The characters don’t do a lot other than being weird and I wasn’t particularly interested in them. It is also a little too cartoony and light to actually get into it (surprising really). I will however give credit to the portrayal of mental health patients in this movie, they aren’t victimised or villainised. Despite being an absurd and quirky comedy, they display them in a somewhat serious way.

MV5BMTU2OTk2ODI0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODI2ODc1MjE@._V1_

Generally I thought the acting was good. The highlights were the leads in Im Soon-jung and Rain playing the roles of Cha Young-goon and Park Il-soon respectively, the former being a woman who believes to be a cyborg, and the latter a patient who is a thief. They both do great jobs in the lead roles and have a comfortable and believable chemistry in the forefront.

I_m_a_Cyborg_But_That_s_OK-351711184-large

Park Chan-wook is a great director and once again his work is great here. The technical aspects definitely help the movie work as well as it does. There was a lot of energetic and creative work behind the camera, with some stellar cinematography. The use of colour was fantastic, and the production design was stellar. The fantasy sequences definitely go all out and are very fantastical and over the top, which is fitting considering that most of the movie takes place from Young-goon’s perspective and mindset. Finally, the score is great and really fits the movie well.

1e8136b7add90cda816dfd858ee5363a

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK is currently my least favourite film from Park Chan-wook but it’s by no means a bad movie. It’s acted well, its charming and I’m glad I watched it. I guess it just wasn’t for me, I wasn’t as invested with the story and characters as I would’ve liked, maybe I just prefer Park when he’s doing darker movies. The movie isn’t quite for everyone, if you’re not a big fan of movies with any degree of quirkiness, I’m not sure you’ll get into this one. However if you like any of Park’s other movies I do think it is at least worth checking out.

Wide Awake (1998) Review

iljlm6scctbgmgnbvyzz

Wide Awake

Time: 88 minutes
Cast:
Denis Leary as Mr. Beal
Dana Delany as Mrs. Beal
Joseph Cross as Joshua A. Beal
Rosie O’Donnell as Sister Terry
Timothy Reifsnyder as Dave O’Hara
Robert Loggia as Grandpa Beal
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A fifth grader (Joseph Cross) goes on a search for God after his grandfather (Robert Loggia) dies. Along the way he gets into tons of trouble at Waldron Academy an all-boys school.

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] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Most people first learned about M. Night Shyamalan upon the release of The Sixth Sense, which became an instant hit and the point where his career took off. What most people don’t know is that The Sixth Sense wasn’t his directorial debut but rather his third movie, having made two prior movies that not many people heard of with Praying with Anger and Wide Awake. Both are pretty hard to gain access to, but I managed to watch the latter. Being overshadowed by later films aside, there’s also a good reason why Wide Awake is not really heard of. Despite being made in 1995 (and written in 1991), Harvey Weinstein basically buried the film’s release with the distribution, and was not released until 1998 (1 year before The Sixth Sense was released). Honestly I wasn’t expecting much based off the premise, although I was interested to see how Shyamalan started before his first hit. The movie wasn’t actually that bad, although I wouldn’t call the movie good either.

006761

The premise of Wide Awake does sound like a premise of a lifetime movie about religion, and much of the actual movie feels like that. With that said, the premise did have potential, it could’ve been about exploring grief from perspective of a child. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do anything interesting. The movie consists of the main kid trying to speak with God, having doubts and then something makes him believe again. Most of the time the movie is spent at the catholic school and at his home with occasional flashbacks of him hanging out with his grandfather. The themes were heavy handed with no subtlety at all. Not that every movie needs to feature their themes in a subtle way but for this topic it needed to be handled with a degree of nuance. However this is a movie where the main character literally Googles “Who’s God?”. The subject matter is presented clumsily and overly sentimental, with a whole lot of cheese. It never reaches a level of profoundness. The journey of the lead character’s search for God and answers isn’t particularly interesting. Spoiler alert, it pretty much ends up with “God works in mysterious ways”. It’s a very bland movie with very little surprises, and the characters and writing feel rather fake. The writing for the children especially doesn’t actually feel like what children that age would do or say. Despite aiming to be touching and moving, ultimately it feels rather hollow and doesn’t really leave any impact. Even the attempts at humour fall flat. Despite how bland the story was, in some ways I found the movie weirdly interesting in some of the odd choices it made. It especially felt odd that this 10 year old kid is having this desire to find God, so it was somewhat intriguing at first to see what they would do next. However by the time it reached the third act, I wasn’t into it any more. One way it does feel like a Shyamalan film is a twist at the end, which was certainly a weird choice to make that really didn’t add anything to the movie.

MV5BNWQ0MmVjNTUtNzE3ZC00NTQ2LWIxMDktMTdmMDEzYTI5YWZlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjI0Mjg2NzE@._V1_

The acting is nothing special, it’s functional and not bad, but nothing really worth mentioning. Generally, the acting of the children was surprisingly okay for the most part, the writing for them however is weird because some of these 10 year olds speak with so much self-awareness that it’s unbelievable. Joseph Cross does relatively well in his part of the lead character. Nothing much to say about the adult actors, I will say that despite Rosie O’Donnell being on the cover art of the film, her character of a baseball loving nun basically doesn’t have much involvement with the plot.

large-screenshot3

As I said earlier, M. Night Shyamalan directs Wide Awake, and there is basically no hint of Shyamalan from this one movie. He’s definitely still learning as a filmmaker and it does have some technical missteps. There is so much voiceover throughout, with the main character constantly giving internal exposition about the past and his feelings. It can get overbearing and annoying really quickly. The cutesy and quirky score can get a little annoying too. On the whole though it is competently made, some shots are nicely composed, and I wouldn’t say it’s a badly directed movie.

tWdWyAFhStzWSzXzscTg4HLjf7G-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

Honestly the most interesting part of the movie is the fact that M. Night Shyamalan made it at all. That is probably what kept me somewhat patiently staying with this movie, without his name attached I probably would’ve given up on it earlier on. That aside, it’s a very mediocre yet harmless Hallmark movie that’s quite forgettable. I would actually put this as one of Shyamalan’s worst movies, though keep in mind I only dislike a few of his movies. Wide Awake is honestly not worth checking out unless you’re interested in seeing how he started as a filmmaker.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) Review

610643770-lohnt-sich-kino-killers-bodyguard12-Uea

The Hitman's Bodyguard

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce
Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid
Gary Oldman as Vladislav Dukhovich
Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid
Élodie Yung as Amelia Roussel
Joaquim de Almeida as Jean Foucher
Kirsty Mitchell as Rebecca Harr
Richard E. Grant as Mr. Seifert
Director: Patrick Hughes

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a protection agent, is tasked with protecting Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), one of the world’s most famous assassins. The two must then set aside their differences to tackle several dangerous events.

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 heard about The Hitman’s Bodyguard when it came out, an action comedy with the pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in the lead roles. I didn’t watch it when it came out, it looked fun enough despite the mixed reviews, but it wasn’t something I was actively pursuing to watch. However with it getting a sequel this year, I decided I should probably get around to it. The Hitman’s Bodyguard was about what I expected it to be, it’s not that good and it’s a little generic but I had fun with it.

636387564348166253-083-HBSG32

The plot doesn’t really have much to it. I didn’t care much about what was happening, but it was simple enough and not overly convoluted. It’s also not particularly original, two people who have a lot of differences between them are stuck with each other but put their differences aside by the end. It’s very similar to the plots of other buddy action comedies. It’s very familiar, by the numbers and predictable but it’s still quite enjoyable. The movie does exceed when it’s the two characters getting in shenanigans, more so than its actual generic plot. The writing can be funny. Not all of it worked and for the most part I didn’t find it to be laugh out hilarious or anything, but the comedy was alright. One unexpected issue was that tonally, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a bit inconsistent. It has the goofiness as expected but also has its fair share of tonal shifts into dark moments and plays some scenes a hair too seriously. I’m not saying the mix of the two can’t work, but they certainly don’t pull it off in this movie. It probably would’ve been better leaning into the silliness. Finally, the movie does run on for too long. It’s around 2 hours long and you do feel that length, and the inconsistent pacing doesn’t help matters.

esp-cin_resena-the_hitmans_bodyguard-0jpg

The main draw of the film is Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in the lead roles, it’s what most people who watch the movie are here for, and thankfully they deliver. The movie plays into the personalities that each lead has cultivated over their careers, and it certainly felt like each of them were playing themselves. The two of them are funny, have good chemistry and play off each other well. However I do feel like the writing wasn’t quite all there to utilise them the best and it could’ve been a bit better. The rest of the supporting cast are fine but they all feel wasted in a way. In fact, when it’s not focusing on the two leads, the majority of the characters are just sitting down and waiting for stuff to happen. Gary Oldman plays a generic dictator villain, and all he does is just sit down looking menacing and giving out orders to kill Samuel L. Jackson’s character. Salma Hayek is a standout in her scenes as Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s wife, but generally she spends much of the movie just in a prison cell and doesn’t do anything really. Elodie Yung is a disgruntled former lover of Reynolds’s character and doesn’t do a massive amount in the plot outside of waiting for Ryan Reynolds to show up at the final location with Samuel L. Jackson.

O859037-d9b1d

Patrick Hughes is the director of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and initially I was sceptical going in since his last movie was The Expendables 3, which I found to be quite lacklustre. I will say however that the action here is definitely better than the action in Expendables 3, if only because it doesn’t feel forcibly toned down to get a PG-13 rating. The fight scenes are pretty decent and overall, the action is fun and entertainingly dumb, if nothing unique or special. However, some aspects take away from them. It has a little too many cuts and edits, the visual effects aren’t that great, and the scenes weren’t shot the best. I previously mentioned about the tonal inconsistencies and that especially is the case when it comes to the action scenes, specifically the violence. The violence at times can be surprisingly graphic and bloody and even lingers on gruesome images, but there’s also some very silly and comedic action scenes. Again, gore aside, I think the issue is that some of those scenes are played a little too seriously that they feel out of place even if they are going for dark comedy.

THB_1856.NEF

The Hitman’s Bodyguard was pretty much what I expected, a very flawed action comedy with some mildly entertaining action and the highlights being Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Much of the plot is very generic and underwhelming, and even for a standard buddy action movie could’ve had more to it (or at least been a little more fun). However, the chemistry of the leads completely carry the movie. I’m just hoping that The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is better than the first movie.

Luca (2021) Review

ZWOJFYK7TJHWNII4W26KRGZHVY

Luca

Time: 95 Minutes
Voice Cast:
Jacob Tremblay as Luca Paguro
Jack Dylan Grazer as Alberto Scorfano
Emma Berman as Giulia Marcovaldo
Saverio Raimondo as Ercole Visconti
Maya Rudolph as Daniela Paguro
Marco Barricelli as Massimo Marcovaldo
Jim Gaffigan as Lorenzo Paguro
Peter Sohn and Lorenzo Crisci as Ciccio and Guido
Marina Massironi as Mrs. Marsigliese
Sandy Martin as Grandma Paguro
Sacha Baron Cohen as Uncle Ugo
Director: Enrico Casarosa

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, the original animated feature is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water’s surface.

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 only knew a little bit about Luca going into it, I just knew it was a Pixar Animated movie set in Italy. I only found out that it involved sea people when I watched the trailer like a day before watching the movie. So I really had no prior expectations going in and I’m glad I checked it out, I enjoyed it a lot.

39781156-0-image-a-32_1614298311265

To get this out of the way, Luca is not very ambitious by Pixar standards or animated movies standards, and is very much formulaic. It was light and fun with a lot of humour, but I was still invested in how the story played out. Essentially it’s an easy coming of age summer hangout movie, and the lower stakes story was honestly rather refreshing. It is a conventional story on the surface but it works well because of the execution. I’ve seen some reviews comparing Luca to a Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki movie and its pretty apt comparison. Luca is a coming of age with a high concept premise with sea monster people while still being anchored to a simple human scale. It’s a simplistic plot but has a lot of character work and has a big heart at its centre. It is a tale of acceptance, individuality and friendship, as well as a story about self discovery and hiding one’s identity to fit in. It definitely excels in its quieter moments too. I am fine with it not being particularly original or ambitious, but I do think it did feel a little too content with its tropes. The fish out of water story has been done plenty of times and it doesn’t really do anything different here (outside of being a literal fish out of water story this time). There were some plot and character aspects that could’ve been expanded on and developed to give some context, and some cliches that make it into the film could’ve been avoided. Some of the conflicts particularly could’ve been handled better. Luca’s parents are scared of him leaving the ocean and it just felt very familiar and by the numbers and could’ve been fleshed out. Even the eventual conflict between the two main characters comes out of nowhere and feels rather forced. The finale from a story standpoint is good, the action in the climax does feel very familiar to other animated films, but is still fun. It also still packs an emotional punch near the end because of the characters, particularly with the strong friendship established between the lead characters. Luca is 100 minutes long and that was the right length for it, which is helped with the good pacing which never gets too slow.

luca-1619605205

The characters were quite memorable and were good all round. The young lead characters with Luca, Alberto and Giulia, and the voice acting from Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer and Emma Berman respectively were great. The strong lead friendship between Luca and Alberto in the forefront was fantastic particularly, and drives much of the movie. The rest of the characters were pretty good too, there were only two that stood out as being out of place. The first was the villain, who is basically just a bully and it feels like the movie didn’t really need him and worked fine without him. With that said it’s something you can look past, and if you’ve been a little annoyed at twist villains and tragic villains in animated movies nowadays, then you’ll probably like his addition here. The other is the uncle of Luca, if only because he was voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen but ended up being a cameo since he only had one scene.

attachment-luca-img-2

The direction from Enrico Casarosa is great. The animation style is a bit different from most Pixar movies but is still absolutely gorgeous, definitely one of their best-looking movies. It seems to capture this town in Italy perfectly, with its depiction being whimsical and vibrant in contrast to the dark and deep ocean that the film starts off in. The character design is great especially with the sea monsters. The score from Dan Romer was warm and fitting for the film.

17luca1-superJumbo

Luca is not one of Pixar’s best but it’s a really good and enjoyable animated movie, it is gorgeous to look at, and has endearing characters and a formulaic but still heartfelt story. It might not be anything new or special, but it’s a refreshingly simple and fun summer hangout flick and definitely worth checking out.

The Truman Show (1998) Review

Truman-Show

The Truman Show

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Low level offensive language
Cast:
Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank
Laura Linney as Hannah Gill
Ed Harris as Christof
Natascha McElhone as Sylvia
Holland Taylor as Alanis Montclair
Director: Peter Weir

An insurance salesman (Jim Carrey) is oblivious of the fact that his entire life is a TV show and his family members are mere actors. As he starts noticing things and uncovers the truth, he decides to escape.

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]

The Truman Show is known as a classic and for very good reason. I remembered watching it a while ago just hearing about its concept and knowing that Jim Carrey was in the lead role, and I liked it. More recently on a rewatch though, I loved it even more. It’s a smart, funny and entertaining satire, and strong on the writing, directing and acting fronts.

3085010e

The Truman Show already has a great concept of a man who doesn’t know that his entire life is actually a TV show and everyone in his life are actors. The idea is executed brilliantly too, managing to be both entertaining and deep, with a perfect blend and balance of both comedy and drama. It is paces itself excellently over its hour and 40 minute runtime, and unravels and de-constructs Truman’s world in a meticulous and gradual way, even though you know pretty early on what’s really happening. The screenplay is original, enjoyable and is surprisingly thought provoking, offering some clever insights on the human experience and raising questions. It’s a deep and thought provoking film that is still light hearted at times. It’s a perfect mix of so many themes, obviously the likes of reality television, media and the public’s obsession with celebrities are here, but even topics including meaning of life, the reality of choice and existentialism can be seen here. In many ways, The Truman Show was ahead of its time, the topics it touches upon still resonate strongly in today’s society and it seems more relevant than ever. As someone who had a second viewing on this movie, I can confirm that it is even better on repeat viewings as I got more from the deeper meanings and themes beyond its plot.

the-truman-show-anniversary-lede

The acting from everyone is great but the highlights are really two performances. Jim Carrey plays lead character Truman, and this movie cements how good of an actor he is. Stepping aside from his typecast roles, Carrey surprises with a dense, dramatic and well-balanced performance that is truly heartwarming, he’s quirky and optimistic but still very much human, especially with his reactions to certain revelations in the movie. Ed Harris plays Christof, the show’s creator, and he does well in a nuanced performance. Christof cares about Truman in a way, but at the same time wants to keep the show going, and Harris is great at portraying both sides of him.

ELQ-k6tXYAA7pvq

Peter Weir directs this movie, and overall he does a great job with it. The production design is nothing short of amazing as the entire city in Truman’s world gives off a feeling of being artificial like a television set, while still having a certain realism to it. It’s also well shot, with the cinematography also makes great use of camera angles by capturing the events from different point of views. The editing keeps the drama flowing smoothly, and music also makes its presence felt from time to time.

d838011cd91741719b4d7912a334ca02

Whether you place it in the category of comedy, sci-fi, drama or all of them at once, The Truman Show is a great film. It’s an entertaining and funny, yet heartfelt take on the absurdity of reality television and human nature, and is equally effective as a meditation on the various themes it deals with. If you haven’t already, definitely check out The Truman Show as soon as you can, it’s definitely worth it.

Cruella (2021) Review

CRU-13444_R-scaled

Cruella

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emma Stone as Estella Miller/Cruella de Vil
Emma Thompson as Baroness von Hellman
Joel Fry as Jasper Badun
Paul Walter Hauser as Horace Badun
Emily Beecham as Catherine Miller
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita “Tattletale” Darling
Mark Strong as John
Director: Craig Gillespie

Estella (Emma Stone) is a young and clever grifter who’s determined to make a name for herself in the fashion world. She soon meets a pair of thieves (Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser) who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they build a life for themselves on the streets of London. However, when Estella befriends fashion legend Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), she embraces her wicked side to become the raucous and revenge-bent Cruella.

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]

Cruella was a movie I wasn’t entirely excited for in the lead up to its release. While I haven’t seen all the live action Disney remakes, generally they’ve felt rather average and not that impressive. However there were a few reasons I was slightly interested for Cruella. One was the cast, which included Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. There is also the fact that it’s an origin story for Cruella de Vil, which although potentially unnecessary, does mean that it’s probably going to do more than just be a repeat of the animated movie’s story beats. Also the trailers looked decent, and hinted at being more than just a replication of the animated movie. Cruella actually surprised me quite a bit and I liked it.

cruella-2021-emma-stone-1621876090

Cruella was 2 hours and 14 minutes long, despite the fact that the movie is very fast paced, and I was entertained throughout. The plot is rather predictable and familiar (not necessarily in terms of it being a Disney movie), but nonetheless I was interested to see where it would go. Throughout when you’re watching the movie, you might be wondering how this version of Cruella de Vil is supposed to link up with the versions of Cruella de Vil that we are more familiar with. I get the feeling however that this is actually a reimagining of the character, and if that’s the case then I’m entirely on board with that. Even by the end, she’s more of an anti-hero than a full on villain. One way where the two versions of Cruella differ is with regard to the dogs, you don’t need to worry about seeing any puppy/dog killing because there’s none here. There’s even two dogs who are with Estalla/Cruella and the thieves she’s teamed up with, so it is definitely taking a different approach to the character. It is an origin story for Cruella de Vil, and while it does seem a bit unnecessary to bolt a tragic backstory and try to force it in, I was surprisingly rather engaged. One of the things that emerged online about the movie as soon as it came out was a particular moment involving dalmatians in the first 20 minutes, and yes it is rather ridiculous and forced. However it actually works alright in the movie itself, partly because of the tone. Throughout. it does have a rather campy tone, so some of the sillier aspects and issues seem to work alright here, including a flawed story and cheesy dialogue. I’m not certain that I’ve watched the original 101 Dalmatians movie but there were some moments that referred to that film, and they were quite on the nose. It was almost like the filmmakers were contractually obliged to include them. However there weren’t as many of those moments as I thought they would be, nor did they take away from the rest of the story. I feel like by it being an origin story, it actually had freedom to be its own movie (a crime comedy) rather than being restricted to just repeating story beats from a pre-existing film. For those interested, there’s a mid credits scene which hints towards a sequel.

cruella-1

The cast were among the strongest parts of the movie. First of all is Emma Stone as Estella/Cruella de Vil, who turned out to be a surprisingly great casting choice. Stone humanises her and adds so much to the character, while giving a larger than life performance and is clearly having a great time in the role. Even if you don’t like the rest of the movie, I do think Cruella is worth watching for her alone. There’s also Emma Thompson as The Baroness, and her character does seem very similar to Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. However it actually sort of works for this movie, and Thompson is great as the film’s scene chewing and hateable villain. The back and forth between her and Stone is very enjoyable to watch. Also really good are Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as the thieves that are teamed up with Estella/Cruella, and the three play off each other very well. Hauser particularly stands out, especially with his perfect line delivery and comedic timing.

Emma-Thompson-como-a-Baronesa-Von-Hellman-em-Cruella-Divulgacao

Cruella also benefits a lot from the energised direction of Craig Gillespie. Performances aside, the stylistic direction elevates the script immensely. The setting of 70s London is beautifully filmed with gorgeous cinematography and has well detailed set designs, it lends itself well to the fashion, music and grimy aesthetic. The wardrobe is fantastic as to be expected, the costumes are absolutely extravagant, and the visual style really showed them off well. The score from Nicholas Britell (who also composed Succession, Vice, Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, The King and more) is amazing as to be expected from him, and really adds a lot to the film. The soundtrack has a great lineup of songs, even if many of them feel very on the nose and there are too many needle drop moments. On a technical level, really the only aspect that isn’t so great is the CGI, especially the effects used for the dogs.

image004-1

One could argue that Cruella is an unnecessary movie, and in a way it is. However I can’t deny that I was enjoying it throughout. The plot is not the best but did enough to have me actually interested to see how things would progress, it’s directed with a very distinct style, and the performances were all great, especially Emma Stone as the titular character. There’s a sequel in talks, and while I’m not sure how it would be possible, I’m not against it. Even if you aren’t such a big fan of the recent live action Disney remakes, I think Cruella is worth checking out.

Sharknado (2013) Review

Time: 86 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb
Cast:
Ian Ziering as Fin ‘Finley’ Shepard
Tara Reid as April Wexler
John Heard as George
Cassie Scerbo as Nova Clarke
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante

Nature’s deadliest killer takes to the skies in the ultimate gill-ty pleasure as a group of friends try to save the Santa Monica coast from shark-infested tornadoes.

Sharknado made a bit of an impact when it came out. Monster movies (and poorly made ones at that) from the Asylum aren’t uncommon, but this one really got a hit, even gaining 3 sequels. Now I know that these movies are entertaining for many people, but Sharknado (at least the first one) really did absolutely nothing for me. I went in knowing that pretty much the whole movie would be terrible but yet it somehow wasn’t the so bad it’s good movie that everyone had been making it out to be.

For a movie about a tornado full of sharks, it somehow manages to be really boring and not entertaining for much of the film. Sharknado at times seems like it wants you to take it somewhat seriously. It might be a weird thing to say but there was so much pointless character development (and its not even like they’re parodying disaster movie characters or anything like that), it really drags at points. Much of the movie is just following these characters around and then the Sharknado comes around to cause problems… and it just doesn’t leave any kind of impact. Obviously you don’t care for the characters or the story but you also aren’t entertained by the silliness of the movie. Yes, there are some implausible things, like towards the end the solution to the Sharknado was dropping bombs inside it. Also, people shoot sharks and chainsaw them like they’re nothing, really a bunch of outrageous and silly things. But if anything, I wanted more of these moments because on the whole, even the crazy aspects just don’t stick with me. It’s really the third act where the film finally realises what type of movie it should’ve been trying to be in the first place and goes absolutely crazy, bombing and chainsawing sharks and the like. Honestly if you really want to watch this movie, you’ll get the best experience by just watching the last half hour, it’s the only redeeming section of the movie, and is genuinely entertaining.

The acting isn’t good at all, as to be expected. None of the cast featuring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, John Heard, Cassie Scerbo and others did anything well. Oddly enough it seems like some of the actors are actually trying to be serious, but even then they seemed to fail. It doesn’t seem like they entirely know what kind of movie they are in.

Sharknado is terribly directed throughout, from start to finish the effects are absolutely awful, and its not just the sharks that look incredibly fake, the movie opens with the cheapest looking ship. Now all of this is predictable, no matter how silly it got, I was never astounded or surprised by it. You get used to it after the first 10 minutes.

Sharknado doesn’t work as an entertainingly cheesy bad movie, and is way more boring and underwhelming than it had to be. The thing that surprised me the most is that the movie, is that it felt like some people working on this movie wanted it to be semi-serious. I’m not in on the joke but it seems like many people were, because it somehow manages to get 3 sequels. I guess if you really want to check it out you can, but really only the third act I liked. I might get around to trying out at least one of the sequels, apparently its much more comedic, and might be more what I was expecting from this movie.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) Review

007269e8

BORAT

Time: 84 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Offensive Language, Sexual Material & Other Content that May Offend
Cast:
Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev
Ken Davitian as Azamat Bagatov
Luenell as Luenell
Pamela Anderson as herself
Director: Larry Charles

Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen), a Kazakh resident, travels to the USA to make a documentary on the country. While on his mission, he learns that the USA is the same as his own country in many ways.

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 had watched Borat for the first time some years ago, I remember only bits and pieces of it, but I recall enjoying it somewhat. With the sequel out in 2020, made just under a decade and a half later, I wanted to refresh my memory of the original movie. I had a feeling that I’d just find it okay but nothing special outside of some scenes. However, it’s actually held up better than I thought it would’ve.

BORAT

Borat is funny and equally scary as a portrait of a post-9/11 America and the Bush era. I found most of the jokes hit, a few didn’t work as well as the others, but most of the time the humour worked really well for me. The actual story isn’t anything to ride home about, and isn’t anything special. It’s mostly just Borat wreaking havoc in America, and the movie works as that. The movie does satire very well, and was shock humour at its finest. You can tell within the first 20 to 30 minutes whether the movie will work for you or not. Despite some of the things that happen during the movie, it doesn’t actually edge towards being offensive because it’s always blatant that Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat is mocking people who actually believe the offensive things he says, along with the real life people who actually do say and believe those things. Despite Borat on surface level seemingly like a caricature, he’s a mirror of the people who buy into this image and believe him as a person, despite how over the top he is. It is often uncomfortable to watch because you know that Cohen is just pushing some people to their breaking points, but in other cases, it’s pretty clear that some of the people that Borat interacts with actually believe things similar to him. The movie surprisingly has aged well and does hold up, at least for me it did. Looking at it now, it’s hard to believe it was released and made back in 2006. You can tell that some of the scenes that are actually related to the plot were more than likely scripted with the intent of furthering the story, but it doesn’t take away from the experience too much. It is around an hour and 20 minutes long and definitely works with that length, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

PRI_161764496-1

One of the greatest strengths of the movie is of course Sacha Baron Cohen as the title character, which has to be one of the greatest central comedic performances of all time. He excels as Borat, and is incredibly talented to not only be convincing for so long to fool people into thinking that he’s a real person, but also to get people to expose and reveal things about themselves, even in front of a recording camera (something he would do a lot even outside of this character). Sacha has this endless quirky energy which carries much of the movie, and while it’s a pretty obvious statement, this  movie would not have worked nearly as well without him.

Borat_Cultural_Learnings_of_America_for_Make_Benefit_Glorious_Nation_of_Kazakhstan-820944873-large

The movie is directed by Larry Charles, and it is well made enough. It is shot in a fairly simple documentary/mockumentary style. Not much stands out about it really, but it’s pretty effective for the movie’s purposes, especially with the editing.

B000P4ME14_Borat_UXFX1._V144614454_RI_

I’m not really sure that there’s much more to really say about Borat that hasn’t been said already. It’s a funny and outrageous American satire that works very well for what it was, and made quite an impact on popular culture. Sacha Baron Cohen is fantastic, and I think it holds up well enough one and a half decades later. I wouldn’t call it one of my favourite comedies, but I do think that it is worth checking out if you haven’t seen it already.

Another Round (2020) Review

anotherround2.0

Another Round

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Mads Mikkelsen as Martin
Thomas Bo Larsen as Tommy
Lars Ranthe as Peter
Magnus Millang as Nikolaj
Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Four high school teachers (Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang) consume alcohol on a daily basis to see how it affects their social and professional lives.

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 heard of Another Round as being a Danish movie about drinking starring Mads Mikkelsen. I’m interested in anything that Mads Mikkelsen was in, and I heard that the movie had been screened at film festivals, with the reception being pretty positive. I didn’t really know what to expect from it, but Another Round turned out to be quite a surprise, it’s great and definitely worth checking out.

another-round-movie-film-reviews-druk-danish-2020-mads-mikkelsen

Another Round (also titled Druk in Denmark) is a dramedy that balances its comedy and drama effectively. The plot is about drinking, as you can probably tell from the title. Usually, movies that have drinking as the main focus show just the negative effects. With this movie however, it shows the positives and the negative sides, while having unique looks at serious subject matters including alcoholism, discontent lives, and marriages. It’s quite an easy to watch, the light-hearted tone through much of the film fits the movie quite well. It’s definitely entertaining and fun but also has a few emotional moments which stick with you. Along with the highs, Another Round also shows the crushingly lows of the effect of alcohol, and as they are continuing with these four teachers’ intoxication experience, we see the many downsides of how it can affect one’s life, as well as those around them. What at first starts as a experiment becomes something else entirely for the characters. It feels very honest and not in an overly sappy way, it feels genuine and nuanced. It highlights the seduction associated with drinking, and refreshingly doesn’t shy away from showing how great that feeling is. It’s a bit predictable but I was on board for the ride from beginning to end. Something else to note, the ending is one of the best endings I’ve seen from a movie this year, and is also one of the most memorable scenes I’ve seen from 2020.

Another-Round-scaled

The cast are all great in their performances, but it comes down to 4 main leads in Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang as friends and teachers who are carrying out their drunken and intoxication experiment. There is such great chemistry between these 4, you really believe that they are longtime friends in their scenes together. Mads Mikkelsen is essentially the main character out of the 4, I’ve always liked him, but in Another Round, he delivers some of his best work. He gives quite a vulnerable, nuanced and versatile performance, definitely among the stand out performances from 2020.

DRUK

This is the first movie I have seen from Thomas Vinterberg, I haven’t seen his prior movies but heard that he’s a great director with films like The Hunt and Far from the Maddening Crowd which I want to check out. Having seen Another Round, I do want to watch his other movies even more, because he’s definitely a great director based off his work here. I do like how they differentiate the sober and drunk scenes with the camerawork, with the sober scenes being shot more steady, and the drunk scenes being shot more handheld. The last sequence/ending of the movie stands out, largely because of how it was filmed and the use of music.

5f6896946f94b92ebdd40078_o_U_v2

Another Round is a humane, warm and cathartic dramedy showing the benefits and drawbacks of alcohol, as well as being a very reflective and entertaining movie about life, friendship and day drinking. With a well written script and solid good direction, it really succeeds in its goal. Top that off with 4 great performances, especially from Mads Mikkelsen, it is great. It’s one of the best movies of the year and is worth watching for sure.

Black Bear (2020) Review

BLB_selects_g_r709_1.6.1-scaled

Black Bear

Time: 100 Minutes
Cast:
Aubrey Plaza as Allison
Sarah Gadon as Blair
Christopher Abbott as Gabe
Director: Lawrence Michael Levine

A filmmaker (Aubrey Plaza) at a creative impasse seeks solace from her tumultuous past at a rural retreat, only to find that the woods summon her inner demons in intense and surprising ways.

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 didn’t know much about Black Bear going into it. All I knew that it was a sort of thriller with some unexpected twists, it starred Aubrey Plaza in the lead role, and it had been receiving some pretty positive responses. Black Bear wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, but I liked it quite a lot, it was great.

blackbear

I can’t talk too much about the plot, otherwise I’d give too much away, and I really do recommend going into Black Bear as blind as possible. What I can say is that I liked the first act with its initial premise about a filmmaker in a cabin along with a couple. I liked the atmosphere, I liked the interactions that the three characters had, and I was interested to see where it was all leading towards. There’s a certain point in the movie where it takes a distinct turn to say the least. Some other reviewers have been openly talking about that aspect, however for the sake of your viewing experience, I’m going to hold back on that. I’m also not going to go into much of the themes that the movie touches upon. What I can say was that it was quite surprising, and I wasn’t expecting it. Now, I do think the turn was good and I was on board with it. However, it was also a lot to take in, it does admittedly detach you from the narrative, and as a result it loses a bit of its momentum following from that point onward. Also, it does feel like it is missing something towards the end, like it needed another section to tie everything together. With that said I have a feeling it was leaving room for interpretation, because that seems to be what the ending was going for. I’m not exactly sure what the ending was implying but I’m interested in reading peoples’ interpretations. One thing about this movie is that it is very meta and the line between fiction and history is blurred, and when the film takes its turn, whether or not it works for you will make or break the movie. The dialogue is nothing short of chaotic and razor sharp, with some very memorable lines throughout. As said previously, there is an effective atmosphere and uncomfortable tension throughout the movie, you do feel uneasy and it has you riveted.

blackbearw1

The acting is great, but it’s really Aubrey Plaza who is the standout in the lead role. Her performance is nothing short of captivating and intense. She delivers the dialogue expertly and emotes greatly with whatever her character is doing or feeling. This might be the best acting work I’ve seen from her, and she was already fantastic in Ingrid Goes West. The supporting cast are good too, especially Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon who deliver some great work here that shouldn’t be overlooked. However, it really is Plaza’s movie through and through.

BB-Aubrey-Chris_02-jpgbig-11

Black Bear is directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, and his work here is great. It’s quite beautiful to look at, and the way everything is shot with the intense camerawork gave the film a dynamic and real feeling throughout. The use of handheld was particularly effective. The sound design is great and sharp. The bleakness of its cinematography and the haunting score both matched the tone of the movie, and really helped to create a foreboding sense of dread.

Aubrey Plaza in "Black Bear."

Aubrey Plaza in “Black Bear.”

Black Bear is an mindbending, unexpected and well directed drama thriller, with effective tension, and some great acting from everyone. To a degree I’d say that it’s not for everyone, but even if it doesn’t completely work for you, it’s definitely worth watching for Aubrey Plaza’s performance alone.