Category Archives: History

Till (2022) Review

merlin_214440696_9ae2e84d-c950-4f84-b7ab-625d74a257d0-videoSixteenByNine3000

Till

Time: 130 Minutes
Cast:
Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till
Jalyn Hall as Emmett Till
Frankie Faison as John Carthan
Haley Bennett as Carolyn Bryant
Whoopi Goldberg as Alma Carthan
Director: Chinonye Chukwu

The true story of Mamie Till-Mobley’s relentless pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who was brutally lynched in 1955 while visiting his cousins in Mississippi.

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 a bit about this movie, mainly from hearing that it was getting some awards attention. I heard that it’s about the murder of Emmett Till in the 1950s; while it could’ve easily been mishandled, it ended up being a devastating but necessary and well made movie.

TILL (2022)

Some people might be a bit reluctant to watch this movie, understandably so. On top of it being about a tragedy like this, plenty are tired of movies focussing on black people’s suffering, especially in the past decade. For what its worth though, I wouldn’t put Till in that category. Its respectful and tasteful to the true-life events as much as possible and treats it with the thoughtfulness it deserves. They could’ve gone the graphic route by showing Emmett Till being killed on screen, but the film just show the lead up to his death and the aftermath, while his death is kept offscreen. It also serves the movie better, capturing the emotions of his mother Mamie Till rather than focussing deeply on the brutality inflicted on him. It is very much a character driven movie as it follows Mamie as she’s going through all this. At first it takes time to establish Emmett and Mamie’s life in Chicago before he goes to Mississippi, then after his disappearance and then death, it focuses on her search for justice. Till is painful to watch but affecting and moving. There are times where the movie can be slow, mainly in the second half, but the majority of the slower pacing works well enough.

till-01

The story is really led by the performances, each actor delivers a convincing performance that leaves an impression on you, no matter how small their screentime might be. Of course, the highlight is Danielle Deadwyler who is great as Mamie Till, and delivers a powerhouse performance. She has you invested in her fight and delivers a genuine and sensitive portrayal of grief and conviction. The rest of the performances are also top notch, including Whoopi Goldberg, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Jayme Lawson and Haley Bennett.

MV5BYzlkYzFhNWItZDZmZC00MTE4LWE4ZTAtNjJkMjRhMDgwOTNiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODk2NDQ3MTA@._V1_

The direction from Chinonye Chukwu is great. It is very well shot, and there are even some stylistically interesting things that are done here. Abel Korzeniowski’s score was great too, making already powerful scenes even more powerful. However, probably the most distinctive directing choices had to do with what Chukwu decided to show and not show, which was very important. As previously mentioned, they concealed certain things so as to not be exploitative, but doesn’t shy away from the brutality of it all.

Till-Trailer_072522

Till is a hard hitting and affecting movie which sensitively tells its real life story, and benefits from the excellent performances, especially from Danielle Deadwyler. It is definitely a hard watch, but I think it is worth seeing.

Babylon (2022) Review

yzb071_bkk222_euu663

Babylon

Time: 189 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sex scenes, violence, drug use, offensive language & suicide
Cast:
Diego Calva as Manuel “Manny” Torres
Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy
Brad Pitt as Jack Conrad
Jean Smart as Elinor St. John
Jovan Adepo as Sidney Palmer
Li Jun Li as Lady Fay Zhu
Director: Damien Chazelle

Decadence, depravity, and outrageous excess lead to the rise and fall of several ambitious dreamers in 1920s Hollywood.

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] full_star[1]

Babylon was one of my most anticipated movies of 2022. Of the “newer” directors, Damien Chazelle is already proving himself as one of the best, with Whiplash, La La Land and First Man. His next movie looked to be interesting, set in 1920s Hollywood. I will admit I had some doubts, especially with some questionable marketing which didn’t exactly make the movie look good. But I was still interested in seeing it for myself, and the very divisive reactions only intrigued me further. After all that, Babylon ended up being one of my all-time favourite films of the year.

age-rating-of-babylon-parents-guide

Babylon is by far Damien Chazelle’s most ambitious work yet, and even if I didn’t like the film, I would still applaud it for the massive swings that he takes with it. It’s an epic which covers multiple characters and their stories, and Chazelle did a really good job at making them intersect and cross over with each other. Some have called the movie messy and chaotic; I definitely agree that it’s chaotic but I wouldn’t call it messy, the story is still coherent. It is a very funny and entertaining movie, with some outrageous scenarios and moments. Babylon portrays the debauchery of the film industry, which is made immediately clear in the very in-your-face first 30 minutes. It also explores the eras of cinema and shows how film has changed, especially with the transition from the silent era to talkies. Part of my reluctance going into Babylon was that it was a movie about movies. That doesn’t inherently turn me off from a film, but there’s been so many love letters to cinema recently that I admit that I’ve been getting somewhat tired of them. But I still ended up liking this aspect in the movie. As expected, Babylon does celebrate cinema and so you can call it is a love letter to movie, but it also serves as a condemnation and scathing hate letter to the filmmaking industry and Hollywood. The film is essentially about outsiders navigating an ever-changing industry, and shows their rise and fall as their sense of self is slowly stripped away, often with their sacrifices to film. It is a very funny and entertaining movie with some surprising optimism even by the end, but the story is sad and tragic. It is a very long movie at over 3 hours and this will definitely be an issue for people who aren’t invested within the first hour, but I was enthralled for the whole runtime. I’ve noticed that some are a little divided over the ending, even among people who like the movie. While I was initially not sure what to think of it, I thought it worked, even if it’s a little drawn out.

Babylon

Babylon has a massive and talented ensemble cast, with most actors being used to their strengths. Diego Calva and Margot Robbie give amazing performances, with Robbie quite possibly delivering her best yet. The relationship between their two characters is the heart of the film, and they share incredible and convincing chemistry. Brad Pitt is the other main protagonist, an aging movie star who is struggling to adapt to cinema’s change from silent films. Pitt fit this role well, and he delivers a restrained, lived in and believable performance. Some of the other prominent actors include Li Jun Li, Jean Smart, and Jovan Adepo; they are really good and help to bring their characters across. Even other actors with smaller roles like P.J. Bryne, Max Minghella, Katherine Waterston, Eric Roberts, Samara Weaving, and Spike Jonze work to make their roles stand out. Out of the supporting roles however, Tobey Maguire is the standout to me, delivering a weird, unhinged and creepy performance, and it certainly helps that he’s involved with one of the most memorable segments of the movie.

BABYLON

Unsurprisingly Damien Chazelle has done another phenomenal job at directing. The technical aspects are all top notch and brilliant, everything from the cinematography, production design, editing and sound are all amazing. It’s a very bombastic and stylish film, at times a sensory overload especially with the portrayal of excess. It’s a feast for the eyes; a lot of the time there’s so much happening on screen, whether that be the parties or filming of movies, and they are all captured excellently. The camera movements are outstanding, especially with the long takes, and there’s this constant frenetic energy from beginning to end. Finally, the music is just phenomenal. Justin Hurwitz’s composed music is nothing short of outstanding, it gave so much to the movie, and I am confident in calling it the best score of 2022.

Babylon

Babylon is an ambitious, bombastic, enthralling, and exhilarating experience, and is amazingly well crafted. Damien Chazelle’s direction and the technical aspects are outstanding, and it has fantastic performances from the ensemble cast. It really is sad (but unsurprising) that it bombed at the box office. The label “not for everyone” for movies can be meaningless most of the time, but it certainly can apply to Babylon. However, it worked for me on so many levels, and it is one of my favourite films from 2022.

The Woman King (2022) Review

thewomanking_03-copy

The Woman King

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, sexual violence & content that may disturb
Cast:
Viola Davis as General Nanisca
Thuso Mbedu as Nawi
Lashana Lynch as Izogie
Sheila Atim as Amenza
John Boyega as King Ghezo
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

In the 1800s, a group of all-female warriors protect the African kingdom of Dahomey with skills and fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Faced with a new threat, Gen. Nanisca trains the next generation of recruits to fight against a foreign enemy that’s determined to destroy their way of life.

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 was interested in The Woman King in the lead up to its release. It was an upcoming historical epic led by Viola Davis and made by the director of The Old Guard. There was some anticipation for it, including some possible awards consideration. Either way, I think it lived up to the hype.

Woman King_DF-00874R

The Woman King works as a warrior epic and blockbuster; it delivers on the action but also has a level of sensitivity to it, and you are emotionally invested in the story and characters. It is also a historical epic, based on a true story with a setting I found interesting. It is particularly refreshing to see Hollywood making a black led historical epic for a change. I think that by the end of the movie, I feel like I learned something interesting, even though I’m aware it likely isn’t entirely accurate. I can’t speak in certainty about the historical accuracy but there is definitely a feeling that the story was a bit Hollywoodised, though no worse than other historical epics. One of the things I heard going into the movie was how the Nigerian kingdom of Dahomey (which the film focuses on) was not only complicit in the slave trade, but also partook in it. There were some early criticisms that the movie hid this fact. For what its worth, the film definitely addresses it, but you get the feeling that if you were to look into the true life story and facts, there might be things that were changed for the movie (again, much like other historical movies). The discussion about whether to keep the slave trade is highlighted only briefly, but it doesn’t shy away from the horrors of it. The story is enjoyable and riveting to watch, if somewhat predictable. It is a long film at around 2 hours and 15 minutes and sometimes the pacing can drag, particularly meandering in the middle. Also there is a minor romance story involving one of the major characters which I just wasn’t feeling, and it took away from the movie a little.

220913190323-01-woman-king-film

For me, the performances were the highlights of the film. Viola Davis plays the main character and as usual she’s great, delivering and conveying such raw emotion from her character. Its up there as one of her very best performances, and for Davis that’s saying a lot. The supporting cast are also great including Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch and Sheila Atim. John Boyega also plays the king, and he is very in his limited screentime.

the-woman-king-1

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s direction of The Old Guard was solid, but her work on The Woman King is on another level. The cinematography is great and captures the locations wonderfully, and the costume and production design are stellar. The action is also one of the standout aspects of the film, it is stylish, the fight choreography is excellent, and the sound design is good too. You really feel the intensity in each of these sequences. If there’s anything that lets the action down, it’s the fast editing and I wish it was a bit cleaner. Its unfortunate because you can tell that it is otherwise filmed and performed well. Interestingly, The Woman King is rated R13 here in New Zealand, but it is rated PG-13 in America. For as intense as the action scenes were, its not that bloody. The violence did feel a step above a typical PG-13 movie, but I think it could’ve benefitted from an R rating; I’m assuming that it was edited down to help it sell it to a wider audience.

2470911 - THE WOMAN KING

The Woman King is a very well crafted and riveting historical epic, fantastically directed with good action sequences, and most of all has amazing performances led by Viola Davis. There are some minor issues, like the unneeded romance, some of the pacing, and the editing during the action, but on the whole it’s a really good film, and it is well worth watching.

Small Axe: Red, White and Blue (2020) Review

red-white-and-blue-small-axe-review

Red, White and Blue

Time: 80 Minutes
Cast:
John Boyega as Leroy Logan
Steve Toussaint as Ken Logan
Joy Richardson as Mrs. Logan
Corey Peterson as Philford
Neil Maskell as Inspector Willis
Stephen Boxer as Chief Inspector
Director: Steve McQueen

Spotlights the true story of Leroy Logan (John Boyega), who at a young age saw his father (Steve Toussaint) assaulted by two policemen, motivating him to join the Metropolitan Police and change their racist attitudes from within. Part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series of films.

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 watching the Small Axe movies, all directed by Steve McQueen. I really liked Mangrove but was a little mixed on Lover’s Rock. I was interested to continue on with the third movie: Red, White and Blue. I knew that it was about John Boyega in a biopic in the role of a real life police officer and that’s it. It was really good and so far one of the stronger movies in the Small Axe anthology.

boyega

Red, White and Blue is more straightforward and lowkey compared to the previous two Small Axe movies. It also takes a distinctly different approach compared to those other stories, this time following the perspective of a police officer. Red, White and Blue is not only an examination of police culture and institutional racism, it’s also an uncomfortably timely look at how trying to reform a broken system that’s uninterested in change is futile. When the lead character of Leroy chooses to be a police officer, the community turns against him, and even his fellow police officers don’t afford him the same respect and treatment because of his race. It is frustrating to watch at times, but in the way that it is meaning to. Of the first three movies it does have the best character work. It does very well at conveying this internal conflict following the lead character, while setting it against a larger systemic backdrop. In terms of issues, it does feel like it’s glossing over some important information. There’s a lot of potential in the story of a black man trying to change a racist police force from the inside, but the outcome is a little too straightforward. It has a short runtime at just 80 minutes long. It does end a little abruptly and I wanted it to be longer. I think it would’ve benefited from at least another 20-30 minutes to flesh out some relationships and arcs better. With all that being said, I feel like the moment where it ends the story was a deliberate choice, leaving it at a low point with the hopelessness of the situation, and I do appreciate that. A standard biopic would probably continue onwards to show how Leroy would go on and make a lot of change and now everything is alright (which it isn’t). We don’t get closure because there is no closure given, there is no reformation whatsoever.

red-white-and-blue-small-axe-1606388579

The acting is great all round. John Boyega is in the lead role as police officer Leroy Logan, and this is the best work I’ve seen him deliver. Compared to the previous two Small Axe movies where they are ensemble pieces, all the weight is put on the lead to carry this story and Boyega more than delivers. Another noteworthy performer is that of Steve Toussaint as Leroy’s father, a victim of police brutality who is opposed to his son’s decision to become a police officer. The strained relationship between the father and son is given a lot of layers and depth as the film progresses.

_methode_times_prod_web_bin_24a8868c-2e78-11eb-ad99-2498151d5fd1

Like with the other two Small Axe films, Red White and Blue is on a TV budget but is nonetheless elevated by the direction from Steve McQueen. There is less emphasis on style, it’s about on the script and as such the film definitely has the same tone and feel as the other Small Axe movies. With all that said, it does make itself somewhat different from the past two movies, straying from the striking colour pallets of Lovers Rock and instead having a more restrained atmosphere. It may not be one of McQueen’s best efforts on a technical level, but it still results on a greater focus on the character driven narrative.

NINTCHDBPICT000619656655

Red, White and Blue is a great movie that’s well worth checking out. It’s a well crafted and timely biopic with an incredibly meaningful story, led by a strong (and career best) lead performance from John Boyega.

Chernobyl (2019) TV Review

chernobyl-stellan-jared

Chernobyl

Cast:
Jared Harris as Valery Legasov
Stellan Skarsgård as Boris Shcherbina
Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk
Paul Ritter as Anatoly Dyatlov
Jessie Buckley as Lyudmilla Ignatenko
Adam Nagaitis as Vasily Ignatenko
Con O’Neill as Viktor Bryukhanov
Adrian Rawlins as Nikolai Fomin
Sam Troughton as Aleksandr Akimov
Robert Emms as Leonid Toptunov
David Dencik as Mikhail Gorbachev
Mark Lewis Jones as Vladimir Pikalov
Alan Williams as Charkov
Alex Ferns as Andrei Glukhov
Ralph Ineson as Nikolai Tarakanov
Barry Keoghan as Pavel Gremov
Fares Fares as Bacho
Michael McElhatton as Andrei Stepashin
Creator: Craig Mazin

In April 1986, the city of Chernobyl in the Soviet Union suffers one of the worst nuclear disasters in the history of mankind. Consequently, many heroes put their lives on the line to save Europe.

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] full_star[1]

I remember when I was first hearing a lot about an HBO show about the events of Chernobyl, it was one of the most highly reviewed and praised mini series’ that I had heard of. So I was going into it fairly optimistic and I really wasn’t expecting it to be as great as it turned out to be. Chernobyl was a truly excellent show, depicting the true life events with such realism and weight that made it hard to watch, but is nonetheless well made on all fronts and riveting from beginning to end.

Chernobyl-e1568814649721

The writing for Chernobyl is all around fantastic, and I was completely engaged across its 5 episodes. Not one scene felt unimportant or out of place, it’s just so well put together. Each episode concentrates on its own phase of the disaster, and each phase is handled well. Episode 1 begins with the early moments of the disaster during the initial explosion. After that point, the show approaches the disaster on both a macro and micro scale, as we follow the undertaking that Jared Harris’s Valery Legasov and Stellan Skarsgard’s Boris Shcherbina face when trying to prevent a global catastrophe from occurring after the disaster has occurred. However it also focuses attention to the impact that the explosion had on the citizens of Pripyat such as Jessie Buckley’s pregnant Lyudmilla Ignatenko and Barry Keoghan’s young draftee turned animal exterminator. The story is told with such painstaking attention to detail. It does take liberties, but they seem warranted and it was in service of the overall series. It so perfectly crafts the fear and trauma of the events in such a haunting way. I actually don’t think I’ve watched any piece of live action media that conveys this much dread as HBO’s Chernobyl. It’s also very impressive that it manages to take a threat that feels invisible on screen, and make it feel tangible and dangerous. The miniseries does a great job at commemorating all the countless unknown and forgotten people who risked their lives to try to deal with this situation. The scariest part of the whole show is that these events happened, really adding such a weight to the series when you’re watching. Chernobyl at first beings as a graphic recreation of events, but is more than just a tv series about a tragedy. It’s an exploration about the terrible human and environmental consequences and by the end is a systemic breakdown of a government’s limitations, especially with what they choose to hide. It recounts the major events of the disaster but also gives insight as to why it transpired in the first place. The story feels very grounded in reality throughout, transitioning from being scary, to sad, to even hopeful within seconds. It might be a pretty obvious statement to say but Chernobyl is very bleak and not an easy watch for many reasons. It is very harrowing but it’s a deeply rewarding experience. The end result is a dramatization of events that’s both absorbing and deeply affecting.

FL_07_Chernobyl

The acting from the cast is all around fantastic. Getting it out of the way, much of the accents from the actors are English, which can be a bit distracting given that they aren’t Russian. However the alternative would be all of these actors attempting Russian accents, so it’s probably for the best. First of all are the leads played by Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson, who are all great in their parts. The highlights for me were Harris and Skarsgard who are fantastic as these professionals in uncharted territory as they try their best to make sure the disaster doesn’t become worse than it already is. The chemistry between Harris and Skarsgard was so amazing and their dynamic changes from their first onscreen appearance to their last. The supporting cast are all outstanding too. The highlights among them being Jessie Buckley as the pregnant wife of a firefighter who was one of the first responders to the disaster, Barry Keoghan as a soldier whose job it is to kill infected animals, and Paul Ritter as a Soviet Engineer who was partly responsible for the disaster in the first place.

Chernobyl-HBO-Jessie-Buckley

It was all incredibly directed too, with all 5 episodes being handled by Johan Renck. On a technical level it is shot beautifully, with the unnerving yet incredible cinematography. The set designs are exceptional, meticulously recreating Soviet controlled Ukraine which is both impressive and hauntingly beautiful. The whole show has this overcast dystopian look to it which is quite appropriate for the story and tone. Although it’s not a show with many ‘action’ scenes, there are some incredibly breath-taking and tense sequences. An example is the depiction of a rooftop radiation-clearing excursion which was absolutely chill inducing, especially helped by the claustrophobic and truly immersive sound design. The makeup and practical effects is truly detailed and outstanding too, making the representation of what happened to people exposed to the radiation hard to look at. Finally, of course is the eerie and otherworldly score from Hildur Guonadottir, which provides the series with this constant unsettling aura. It perfectly fit the show throughout.

merlin_155717706_add7fe8a-b85b-40ce-8ef9-96704777969d-superJumbo

In all honesty, Chernobyl is some of the best made pieces of television I’ve ever seen, and one of the best miniseries’ I’ve watched. It’s phenomenal on all fronts, with the writing, directing and acting, the story is tragic yet absorbing and compelling. It’s not one I really want to experience again, but I think it is worth watching at least one.

The Seventh Seal (1957) Review

the-seventh-seal-chess-scene[1]

The Seventh Seal

Time: 96 Minutes
Cast:
Gunnar Björnstrand as Jöns
Bengt Ekerot as Death
Nils Poppe as Jof
Max von Sydow as Antonius Block
Bibi Andersson as Mia
Inga Landgré as Karin
Åke Fridell as Blacksmith Plog
Director: Ingmar Bergman

Max Von Sydow stars as a 14th century knight named Antonius Block, wearily heading home after ten years’ worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Block has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Block is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Block challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives — if not, he’ll allow Death to claim him.

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] full_star[1]

The Seventh Seal was known one of those “greatest movies of all time” that I just hadn’t gotten around to watching just yet. I had seen some of the images from the film with the knight playing chess with Death, and that was literally it. I also hadn’t seen a movie from director Ingmar Bergman before, so really going into the movie, I really didn’t know what to expect. The Seventh Seal was actually an excellent film, and I was invested in it more than I thought I would be.

seventh-seal-slide[1]

The Seventh Seal is essentially about a knight who contemplates an endless number of questions about the existence of God, death and life in the midst of the black plague that hit his hometown. We follow him and other different characters that he comes across while continuously playing a literally game of life and death through chess with Death personified. The movie really delivers on being a fantastical philosophical drama that’s complex and intriguing. The film touches on a lot of topics including, faith, religion, death and existence of God. The movie is filled with intelligent, contemplative and memorable dialogue, raising questions in regard to what life means, the uncertainty of what happens after death, and approaches the concepts of mortality and death. The themes are certainly depressing yet riveting, and also puts life into perspective in a unique philosophical way. The movie surprisingly didn’t feel that depressing since it had a relatively light tone most of the time. The movie has some fun moments, and even silly moments that you wouldn’t initially expect in this movie. There’s quite a lot of humour (mostly dark humour) injected into what could’ve been a purely solemn film about death. I would not class this movie as a comedy by any means, but the humour brings a lightness to its subject manner and certainly makes it easier to watch. It is very satirical and entertaining all things considering. The Seventh Seal might be known an art house movie, but it’s more accessible than you would think. The dialogue, conversations and themes alone are intriguing enough, and is entertaining and filled with enough lightness that you can access it. The short runtime of 97 minutes also helps the movie along, while the plot isn’t particularly driven by anything for the most part and is plotless, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The_Seventh_Seal-242983258-large[1]

The acting is also wonderful too. Max von Sydow’s performance as Antonius Block, the knight and main character in this movie, and he’s amazing in this role. Gunnar Bjornstrand plays Block’s squire, and stands out with his charisma and wittiness, definitely a large source of the comedy in the movie. Ingmar Bergman makes Death a walking, talking character in this movie, which provides for some very interesting conversations. Bengt Ekerot plays him, and he’s truly great and memorable, a real presence on and off screen.

the_seventh_seal_023[1]

This is the first movie I’ve seen from Ingmar Bergman, and from this movie alone I can tell he’s an excellent filmmaker. This movie contains some beautiful cinematography with its spectacular lighting (the use of natural light is particularly fantastic) and monochrome look, as well as stunning and instantly iconic imagery. The locations and set designs are utilised exceptionally well too. The score was memorable and appropriately used throughout. Something that Bergman does well is make Death as a concept feel present throughout, even when Bengt Ekerot isn’t on screen.

ae60bac85ea0484aadfb1b0e5b7f

I liked The Seventh Seal much more than I expected to. It covers darker topics and themes like life and death, while also being quite intriguing and even entertaining to watch. It’s helped even further with the strong performances and the excellent direction from Ingmar Bergman. Even if you think that you might not get into it, I do recommend at the very least giving it a look.

Being the Ricardos (2021) Review

BEING THE RICARDOS

Being the Ricardos

Time: 131 minutes
Cast:
Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball
Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz
J.K. Simmons as William Frawley
Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance
Tony Hale as Jess Oppenheimer
Alia Shawkat as Madelyn Pugh
Jake Lacy as Bob Carroll Jr.
Clark Gregg as Howard Wenke
Director: Aaron Sorkin

In 1952, Hollywood power couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz face personal and professional obstacles that threaten their careers, their relationship, and their hit television show.

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]

Being the Ricardos was a upcoming major awards contender that I had been hearing about for a while. I will admit though that despite not knowing much about it outside of some of the people involved, I was a little sceptical going in. First of all, it was a biopic movie focussing on notable film/tv people, and the movie looked like prime Oscar bait. Also the movie is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, whose work could be a mixed bag at times, especially when it comes to whatever he directs. Still, it received Oscar nominations for the performances from Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem and J.K. Simmons, so I thought I should check it out, and went into it open minded. Unfortunately, I just don’t think that the movie was particularly good.

22725a44-4e01-4d85-86d2-0407c4789cd5-being-the-ricardos-BTR_2021_UT_210406_WILGLE_00463_R-2_rgb

I should state first of all that I am not familiar with Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz or the show I Love Lucy, and went into this movie quite blind. However, even as someone who didn’t know of the subjects beforehand, I just didn’t find the film all that interesting, and I found it fairly dull. If the story of Lucille and Desi in real life was interesting, it certainly didn’t survive being compressed and repackaged into the biopic formula. The story of the movie follows Lucille and Desi over one stressful week, it seems simple enough but somehow the storytelling is very flawed here. The story as it was told just felt so disjointed, while the series of events play out over this particular week, it jumps across multiple points in time with an overreliance on flashbacks and flashforwards which muddles everything. To give context to all these events messily crammed into this movie, characters spent a lot of time stating facts about each other or clunkily discussing historical and cultural elements. For whatever reason, there is this present-day faux documentary framing device running throughout the movie where older versions of the three lead show writers for I Love Lucy are being interviewed. Every so often, the movie would just cut to these talking head mouthpieces, and every time this happened, it would be so disruptive and annoying. The dialogue was already on the nose and obvious, but the fact that they practically spoonfeed us the story by flat out telling us what is happening, it almost feels patronising. Count the number of times you hear “what you’ve got to understand is…” from one character alone.

download

Even as someone who aren’t familiar with the true life events, there’s some handling of the history that felt very off. The prime example is this inconsequential aspect where Lucille Ball is rumoured to be a communist. Even within the plot of the movie, it plays a very small part, but from the very beginning of the film it is fixated and focused on so much, to a quite frankly weird degree. You really get the feeling that this is getting into the writer’s own politics over the actual true events. The way that subplot is resolved towards the end in a scene with Javier Bardem on a phone call in front of an audience is hilariously absurd and ludicrous. I didn’t really learn anything from this storyline, the only thing that I can say coming out of it is that I’m confident that Aaron Sorkin would’ve been a supporter of the Hollywood Blacklist. Speaking of Sorkin, you can definitely feel that it’s a movie from him, and I mean that in a bad way. You really do feel like he’s really going for an Oscar here, and it somehow makes the movie even worse. His scripts always seem to have this self-perception of cleverness but it is especially grating here, the faux documentary framing device being an example of one of his decisions that make it harder to watch. Even when you put all of that aside, I just found myself so unengaged by the film as it progresses through the events. I couldn’t be emotionally engaged with the characters, and there was nothing keeping me invested in the story. There was just something dispassionate and underwhelming about the whole experience.

being-the-ricardos-BTR_2021_UT_210330_WILGLE_00066_R_CROP_rgb

I would love to say that the acting elevates the movie. While it’s the best part of the movie, its not enough to save the movie. The acting is mostly decent, but much of the cast feel like they are playing caricatures rather than real people. Nicole Kidman is pretty good as Lucille Ball, even if it definitely doesn’t rank amongst her best performances. I will say that annoyingly with the writing she’s given, Lucille does feel like another ‘Sorkin protagonist’, much like how Sorkin wrote Steve Jobs and Abbie Hoffman. To Kidman’s credit though, she comes across as being a fully formed human, especially in contrast to the other actors. It’s just that there weren’t any times throughout the film where I felt that it was anything beyond a decent performance. Javier Bardem is the co-lead in this as Desi Arnaz. He’s fine enough, but like Kidman, its definitely not one of his best performances. Questionable casting choice aside, he is a bit of a caricature and is very hammy. Definitely not bland or boring, but nothing great. The chemistry between Kidman and Bardem just wasn’t there, which is a big mark against it considering that the relationship between the two people was a key part of the movie. J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda are serviceable in their supporting roles, but don’t get much to do with the writing that they are given.

Brody-BeingtheRicardos

Being the Ricardos is directed by Aaron Sorkin, and this film is further proof that Sorkin is at his best when his scripts are directed by anyone else. While the direction is competent, its done so blandly and lacks any kind of personality, especially on a visual level. Even his last two movies had more to them. The costumes, hair, makeup, presentation is nothing special, everything feels like they’re on autopilot.

b2512ef0-a3ce-4d03-9296-aa7188364b87

I’m sure that the actual story of these people is quite interesting. However, what is presented here is a functional but uninteresting, bland and occasionally grating to watch biopic that fails to engage, from the writing through to the direction. Even the performances aren’t good enough to elevate the movie beyond an average biopic. I’d only recommend this movie to people who want to catch up on the Oscar nominations from this most recent awards season. For what it’s worth, Being the Ricardos was by far the worst movie of this year’s Oscar season that I’ve seen.

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.

Titane (2021) Review

rsz_titane_photo_2carole_bethuel

Titane

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, sex scenes, nudity & content that may disturb
Cast:
Agathe Rousselle as Alexia
Vincent Lindon as Vincent
Garance Marillier as Justine
Laïs Salameh as Rayane
Director: Julia Ducournau

Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) suffers a terrible skull injury and has a titanium plate fitted into her head. When she gets out of the hospital, she rejects her parents and embraces passionately the car that almost killed her. She meets Vincent (Vincent Lindon). Vincent is a tortured man who tries to preserve his strength by injecting steroids into his aging body. Will they find a way to deal with their emotional problems?

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 that Titane was the Palme d’Or winner, which definitely got my attention. I soon learnt that the director was Julia Ducournau, who previously made Raw, a movie that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. I watched it and found it to be an incredible film, and it only increased my anticipation for her next movie. Having seen Titane, I can confirm that it is amazing, even if it’s not for everyone.

titane-1

I won’t spoil the movie, much of it is worth going into yourself. It is hard to describe without saying too much, but I’ll do my best. However, I’d say that part of the premise is that a serial killer with a titanium plate in her head has sex with a car and finds herself pregnant. Of course the movie is more than just that but if your interest switched off after learning that, then chances are this movie might not be for you. The direction the story goes in is genuinely interesting though, and one worth experiencing for yourself. The first 30-40 minutes are very brutal and gruesome, and body horror is a present part throughout. However I expected that, pregnancy by car aside. It’s the second two thirds that caught me off guard, the second half is comparatively less grotesque and that’s where you find out what the movie is about. The script is original and ambitious, and I was invested in the story. The movie is certainly insane, unsettling and unnerving, and it takes influence from the likes of David Cronenberg (especially his 1996 film Crash). Despite many of the scenes in the movie, Julia Ducournau isn’t interested in ramping up the gore and being outwardly disturbing (outside of maybe the first act). The writing is very sincere, disarmingly sweet, and bizarrely beautiful. It was more profound and emotionally resonant than I was expecting. There’s a lot to take away from the movie and analyse. However I can tell from this one viewing that Titane was about family, abandonment and acceptance in its strangest form. Identity is also a big part, especially gender identity and gender fluidity. The movie does a great job at juggling multiple different tones and themes. As for issues, the first act and the rest of the movie does feel quite disjointed, mainly with how different they feel in tone. It doesn’t have a focused central idea like Raw did, and so its initially quite hard to figure out where the story is going. I do get the feeling it would improve on repeat viewing (but only if you really wanted to watch it again).

1752271498_683_0_3414_2048_1600x0_80_0_0_51090b41f1fa8262a08a2065bd2e496c

The performances are great, and it mostly comes down to the main two lead characters who are very fleshed out. Agathe Rousselle plays the main character of Alexia. At first she’s really not a character you start to like, especially given that she’s a serial killer who at first seems to stab anyone she meets. However you sympathise with her by the end, mainly in the second half. Helping this is a memorable, transformative, and committed performance from Rousselle, particularly impressive given that this is her first performance. Vincent Lindon is equally great as the captain of a firehouse who is also a father who’s lost his son. His performance is effectively restrained and sensitive, and his scenes with Rousselle are fantastic.

1AgocSYPYvqJEomw2Ob6

Julia Ducournau has once again shown herself to be an outstanding director. On a technical level, Titane is a massive step up from Raw, and that movie was already greatly directed. The cinematography and camerawork are amazing, visually striking with some very memorable imagery throughout. The sound design is rich and the score from Jim Williams (Possessor and Raw) is eerie and effective. The film is unflinching when it comes to the scenes of gore and violence, and the effects were impressive.

Brody-Titane

Titane will certainly be one of the most memorable and talked about films of the year. It will definitely alienate many people because of the graphic content and bizarreness. However I found it to be an intriguing mix of body horror and heartfelt drama, with excellent writing and direction, and great performances from the leads. Amongst my favourite films from 2021.

The Last Duel (2021) Review

Brody-TheLastDuel

The Last Duel

Time:  153 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sex scenes, offensive language, rape & cruelty
Cast:
Matt Damon as Sir Jean de Carrouges
Adam Driver as Jacques Le Gris
Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges
Ben Affleck as Count Pierre d’Alençon
Director: Ridley Scott

Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is a respected knight known for his bravery and skill on the battlefield. Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) is a squire whose intelligence and eloquence makes him one of the most admired nobles in court. When Le Gris viciously assaults Carrouges’ wife (Jodie Comer), she steps forward to accuse her attacker, an act of bravery and defiance that puts her life in jeopardy. The ensuing trial by combat, a gruelling duel to the death, places the fate of all three in God’s hands.

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] full_star[1]

The Last Duel was a movie I was looking forward to. It’s a medieval drama directed by Ridley Scott, and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon would be involved with writing the script (their first writing collaboration since Good Will Hunting) along with being some of the main actors alongside Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. The only issue going in was the premise of the movie, and it seemed like it could be completely mishandled, especially with the topic of rape being front and centre. It was a lot better than I was expecting, and I’d even consider The Last Duel to be one of my favourite movies of the year.

the-last-duel-jodie-comer-marguerite-de-carrouges-1626801414

The writing from Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck is great. First of all, the plot structure of the script is worth mentioning. This movie has been compared to Rashomon for good reason, we see much of the events of the plot from three different perspectives. The first segment follows Jean (Matt Damon), and for me this was the weakest segment. In all fairness it did have a lot working against it. It felt awkward as it’s the first perspective we see, it is setting up and establishing a lot of characters and the setting, it’s a bit slow, and it’s not as interesting as the other sections. I do feel that it would probably improve on rewatches, but then again, most people who watch this movie won’t be particularly inclined to watch it again. It’s when you get onto the second segment following Jacques (Adam Driver) where it really picks up, as it adds more layers to the events and overall story. It’s at that point that you realise that some of the events in that segment differ from Jean’s perspective, some subtle, some major, whether it be the performances or the dialogue, and it’s cleverly done. The second and third segments also sometimes repeat scenes but its usually to show the differences, and as a result they are much better paced and more interesting. However what makes the movie work is the third segment, following the perspective of Marguerite (Jodie Comer). That’s the section where everything comes together. First of all, I like how they establish that Comer’s perspective isn’t just her perspective, but also the absolute truth of what happened. It’s by far the most emotional and impactful segment of the film. Everything becomes clear, it displays the pride and the ego of the two duellists, and shows everything that Marguerite had to go through., The Last Duel is about rape, sexual assault and misogyny, and that by itself makes it a hard movie to watch (and you do see a rape scene in the second and third perspectives), but for what it’s worth, I thought that these tough subject matters was handled carefully. Despite building towards it the whole film, the titular duel is not portrayed as a glorious battle, in the context it is shown as two men really battling over their pride and egos. This movie is long at 2 hours and 30 minutes, and I thought that it earns its long runtime and uses it very well.

0x0

The acting is great, and everyone does well at playing their parts. First and foremost, this is Jodie Comer’s movie. It might not feel that way at first in the first two segments. However when it gets to her segment, she is incredible and delivers a really powerful performance. Matt Damon and Adam Driver play the two duellists. Out of the main 4 actors, Damon is probably the weakest and most out of place in the film, but I still think he was good (questionable accent aside). Adam Driver is great as always and was very convincing in his part. A scene stealer is surprisingly a blonde Ben Affleck in a supporting role as a count. He’s really funny and memorable and injects a lot of humour into this movie in his screentime.

THE LAST DUEL

Ridley Scott directs this film really well but that’s to be expected, it’s certainly strong on a technical level. The cinematography is beautiful and fitting for the tone of the movie. I was particularly impressed with the editing, mainly with how they portrayed the repeated events from different perspectives. The production design and costumes are effective and authentic, placing you right in the time period. There are battle scenes outside of the whole final duel which they are excellently brutal and grimy, probably the most graphic battle scenes that Scott has ever done. However its clear that most of these are only there long enough to establish that the battles happen, with most of them lasting 1-2 minutes. When it does come to the final battle, it is truly tense, brutal and fantastically done. From the choreography to the camerawork, it ends the film on a really high note. The music from Harry Gregson-Williams is also solid, really fitting the movie.

THE LAST DUEL

An amazing, dark, brutal and uncomfortable medieval drama, The Last Duel was way better than I thought it would be. The script is great with an effective narrative structure, it is directed incredibly well, and features some outstanding performances, especially from Jodie Comer. It is definitely not an easy movie to watch by any means, and isn’t one of Scott’s most rewatchable movies. However, it is great and along with it being one of 2021’s best, I think I consider it to be one of Ridley Scott’s all-time best films. It’s unfortunate that it seems to be bombing at the box office, I do really think it is worth checking out if you haven’t already.