Category Archives: Romance

Bones and All (2022) Review

hero-image

Bones and All

Time: 131 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Bloody violence & content that may disturb
Cast:
Taylor Russell as Maren Yearly
Timothée Chalamet as Lee
Michael Stuhlbarg as Jake
André Holland as Frank Yearly
Chloë Sevigny as Janelle Kerns
David Gordon Green as Brad
Jessica Harper as Barbara Kerns
Jake Horowitz as Lance
Mark Rylance as Sully
Director: Luca Guadagnino

Love blossoms between a young woman on the margins of society and a disenfranchised drifter as they embark on a 3,000-mile odyssey through the backroads of America. However, despite their best efforts, all roads lead back to their terrifying pasts and a final stand that will determine whether their love can survive their differences.

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’ve seen a few of Luca Guadagnino’s movies and I generally like them, mainly Suspiria and A Bigger Splash. I heard that his next movie would be a cannibal love story and star Timothee Chalamet, Taylor Russell, and Mark Rylance. I had a good feeling going in, skipping the trailers and just hearing vague things about it. Having seen it, I think Bones and All is one of my favourite movies of 2022.

AMCPromo_the-incredible-cast-of-bones-and-all

Bones and All is a multigenre movie; it’s a romance, horror, roadtrip and coming of age story. At its core though, it is a love story, a unique one at that. There is a balance between all the elements, it’s deranged and disturbing as you’d expect with the film being about cannibals, yet its sincere and genuine. There is so much beauty in the movie considering its topic, and it manages to be tender and affecting. You get emotionally invested in these troubled characters (really the lead characters). I like the atmosphere and tone and very relaxed approach to the story. It is aimless, but that comes with it being a road trip movie. It is paced well over its 2 hours and 10 minutes runtime, and I never felt bored. If anything, there were characters and elements I wished we got to spend more time with.

17bones1-1-06c8-videoSixteenByNine3000

The performances are really great. Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet are outstanding in the lead roles. Russell is the standout, she’s in almost every scene and the film is really her story as she is learning about herself. The two share such believable chemistry and deliver an endearing portrayal of young people in love (who happen to be cannibals). They convey their feelings about their lives, and they complement each other wonderfully. The relationship is complex and sweet, it really is the heart and soul of the movie. Mark Rylance is a scene stealer as a cannibal who has limited screentime, but has a notable role and is a memorable presence. He’s eerie yet fascinating to watch. In some ways I wish he was in the movie more but maybe he wouldn’t have been as effective. Still, I wished that he was a constant looming presence throughout. There’s a pretty gap between the first and second times that we see him. There are other actors like David Gordon Green, Michael Stuhlbarg and Chloe Sevigny who play their parts well and leave an impression despite their brief appearances.

download

The direction from Luca Guadagnino as expected is amazing. He really does well at capturing the 1980s Middle America time period and setting. The cinematography is gorgeous and makes great use of the different locations, especially with the landscapes. The editing is top notch, and the sound design is perfect. There isn’t a massive amount of gore and violence, but when it is there, it is well done. There is probably less of it than you’re expecting given the premise and is somewhat restrained, but it is nonetheless tense and uncomfortable when its present. Finally, the chilling and somber score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is outstanding and added so much.

Bones_and_All3263

Bones and All is a fantastic, riveting, brutal, unique, and beautifully made romantic horror film, with amazing performances, especially from Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet. Obviously if you’re not into horror at all and feel squeamish about watching a movie focussing on cannibals, it won’t be for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend it, it is one of my favourite movies of 2022.

Ticket to Paradise (2022) Review

ETD_Trailer_Ticket_to_Paradise_VIDPIC_16X9

Ticket to Paradise

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
George Clooney as David Cotton
Julia Roberts as Georgia Cotton
Kaitlyn Dever as Lily Cotton
Billie Lourd as Wren Butler
Maxime Bouttier as Gede
Lucas Bravo as Paul
Director: Ol Parker

A man and his ex-wife race to Bali, Indonesia, to stop their daughter from marrying a seaweed farmer. As they desperately try to sabotage the wedding, the bickering duo soon find themselves rekindling old feelings that once made them happy together.

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 watched the trailers to Ticket to Paradise; it looked like one of those romantic comedies from the 2000s that we don’t get very often nowadays. I went into it after hearing people liking it. I just expected a typical romantic comedy, and it was that, but I did enjoy it.

brody-ticket-paradise

The plot is very predictable, it’s breezy, light and charming across its 100 minutes runtime. Much of it feels like a 2000s romantic comedy, from the writing to the fact that it has stars headlining it and being the main draw, it even has a blooper reel during the credits. It definitely doesn’t reinvent the genre, and it is cliché all the way through. The moment you know the setup, you know how it’ll play out. George Clooney and Julia Roberts are exes who don’t like each other anymore but go to their daughter’s wedding in Bali to stop her from getting married. You know exactly how the movie will go. Not all the jokes land, but I thought most of them worked and I found it fun.

ticket_to_paradise-header

The cast are enjoyable in their parts, and they make the movie really work. This is a film that highly depends on the charisma of the leads. Thankfully, George Clooney and Julia Roberts are effortlessly enjoyable to watch, with very natural chemistry between the two. The film just wouldn’t have been the same without them, they are definitely the highlight of the movie and the reason to watch it. The rest of the cast including Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd are good in their screentime too.

ticket to paradise-universal-sept22-pr-Universal Studios1

The direction from Ol Parker was good, it works well enough for what it is. The locations were amazing, and the cinematography is warm and gorgeous, showcasing those locations well.

Still Photography on the set of "Ticket To Paradise"

You could watch the trailer for Ticket to Paradise and figure out what kind of movie it is. As far as rom coms go, its not one of the best (even when just looking at those from the 2020s. Still, I enjoyed watching it despite its familiarity.

Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) Review

idris

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & nudity
Cast:
Idris Elba as the Djinn
Tilda Swinton as Alithea Binnie
Director: George Miller

A lonely and bitter British woman discovers an ancient bottle while on a trip to Istanbul and unleashes a djinn who offers her three wishes. Filled with apathy, she is unable to come up with one until his stories spark in her a desire to be loved.

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]

Three Thousand Years of Longing was one of my most anticipated movies of 2022. While it already had Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in the lead roles, the main reason I was excited is that it’s the newest film from George Miller, who last directed the incredible Mad Max: Fury Road 7 years ago. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his upcoming movie. The premise seemed a bit vague and simple, and the trailer didn’t really convey much except for its strong visuals. Still, I was curious enough to check it out, and I’m glad I watched it.

FayKb5YWAAIzPCg

First of all, Three Thousand Years of Longing is nothing like the trailer. It showed the basic premise and there are certainly some crazy visuals, but that’s not the nature of the movie. Its not a bombastic spectacle, and its certainly not as chaotic and fast paced as it appeared in the trailers, nor is it as thrilling compared to Miller’s last movie. In fact, it is more of a subdued, endearing and existential fairy-tale love story for adults. The plot and storytelling is more straightforward than you might think it would be. For the most part, this movie surrounds a conversation between Idris Elba’s djinn genie and Tilda Swinton, as he offers her 3 wishes and recounts stories from his past. It is a sincere thought provoking character study about stories (and the importance of them), and a meditation on life, love, and desire. The movie has a lot of narration, and while it can be hit or miss in movies, it fits here given that characters are actually telling stories here. Its very dialogue heavy as you would expect, and I found the conversations between Elba and Swinton to be compelling. In the opening 10 minutes, I wasn’t really sure about what was happening with the story or what direction it is going in. However, it picks up the moment that Idris Elba comes out of the bottle. The third act is a bit out of place from the rest of the movie, it stumbles a little and the pacing is weird. While I was satisfied with the movie, I couldn’t help but feel like it could’ve been longer. Perhaps it was originally longer and was cut down for the theatrical cut, an hour and 50 minutes does feel a little short. Part of that is that it feels a little rushed towards the end, even though I enjoyed it.

THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING

As for acting, it really comes down to the lead performances from Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, both of them are great. They are genuine in their parts, and I like the relationship that they form. I will say however that I wished we got to learn more about Swinton’s character. At some points she talks about her life, but not a great amount, and it particularly pales when compared to all the stories that Elba tells of his very long life.

three-thousand-years-of-longing-TTYOL_00010_RC_rgb-1200x675-1

George Miller directs, and once again his work is incredible, very stylish and creative. He already showed this in Mad Max: Fury Road, but he really is a master of visual storytelling. There are some spectacular sequences, and it was great to experience this in the cinema. The camerawork and cinematography are sweeping and amazing, and the visuals are stunning. There is also so much care put into the set decoration and designs. There is a lot of CGI in this, and sometimes is looks great. At other times however, it looks a bit weird, almost like it’s unfinished. The score from Tom Holkenborg is amazing, and some of his very best work.

three-thousand-years-of-longing-movie

Three Thousand Years of Longing is definitely rough in parts, some of the CGI is a bit dodgy, and parts towards the second half do feel a bit awkward, and it could’ve afforded to have been a little longer. It is also definitely not for everyone, as can be seen with the disappointing box office. It wasn’t helped by the poor marketing, but then again, its not an easy movie to sell to audiences. It’s a shame because it’s the kind of film that we don’t get a lot of nowadays; director driven, sincere, and not afraid to be creative, weird or different. With Three Thousand Years of Longing, George Miller has created a $60 million arthouse movie. The story is genuine and compelling, Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton are great, its visually beautiful, and Miller’s direction and craft are on full display here. I know its not for everyone, but I do think its worth checking out. One of the most surprising movies of 2022.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013) Review

aint-them-bodies-saints-rooney-mara-casey-affleck

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Rooney Mara as Ruth Guthrie
Casey Affleck as Bob Muldoon
Ben Foster as Patrick Wheeler
Keith Carradine as Skerritt
Rami Malek as Will
Charles Baker as Bear
Nate Parker as Sweetie
Director: David Lowery

A man (Casey Affleck) takes the fall for his lover’s (Rooney Mara) crime, then four years later breaks out of prison to find her and their young daughter, who was born during his incarceration.

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 was initially interested in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints for the talent involved, especially with a cast that included Rooney Mara. I went in knowing nothing aside from this and the initial premise, and I quite liked it, even if the writing wasn’t anything special.

img-aintthembodiessaints_115823320088

At its core, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a poetic and melancholic crime drama. The story is predictable, simple and a bit cliched, the characters are archetypical and nothing special. Its very loose with the plot, and for the most part it doesn’t really land as hard emotionally as it was intending to. It is a slower paced movie, often meandering and particularly dragging in the second act. Not everything is explained, and much is left up for the viewer to interpret, very much high on atmosphere and low on explanation, but I kind of respect that. There is a melancholic and sad vibe that is effectively conveyed throughout. There is very little time spent on the actual romance between the lead two characters; we get early scenes with the couple together before they are separated and then there’s a time jump. After this point, for most of the runtime, they aren’t on screen together. Instead, much of the film is them yearning for each other and I thought that was effective. While the movie on the whole doesn’t succeed entirely, there are some powerful character moments.

MV5BOGNkNmUxYjUtYWE2NC00MTMyLTkyMTctN2U1MGM2NDg5NTc5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjcyNzA2MjE@._V1_

Much of what made the movie work as well as it did was the cast. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara deliver great and powerful performances as their characters, they shared convincing chemistry together, which is important since much of the movie relies on their connection, and they have limited scenes together. Ben Foster, Keith Carradine and more also worked well in supporting parts.

7bb76fdb3564a23fcc0f65f9f4490d0b3add6cbf122ea349369a5c9d35774733._RI_V_TTW_

David Lowery’s direction was one of the strongest elements of the movie, I liked his style and handling of the movie. This film is beautifully shot by Bradford Young, with great use of natural lighting and really captured the locations and settings. There is also a great score from Daniel Hart which fitted the melancholic tone of the movie. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints really reminded me of Terrence Malick’s earlier movies, especially with the cinematography and locations, along with the fairly plotless approach.

Aint-Them-Bodies-Saints-4

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a good romantic crime drama. I wouldn’t say that it is a must see, it is slower paced, it can drag and feels like it is missing something with the writing and story. However, David Lowery’s direction and the solid performances were just enough to make it work, and I think it is worth checking out.

The Duke of Burgundy (2015) Review

TheDuke-KeyStill-2000-2000-1125-1125-crop-fill[1]

The Duke of Burgundy

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sex scenes
Cast:
Sidse Babett Knudsen as Cynthia
Chiara D’Anna as Evelyn
Director: Peter Strickland

A drama about the relationship between a pair of female lovers (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna) who play games of dominance and subservience.

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 some people mentioning The Duke of Burgundy as an unusual, artsy yet really good indie film. I decided to check it out based on how well it was received and I’m glad I did, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

maxresdefault[3]

To get the obvious out of the way, The Duke of Burgundy has S&M and BDSM as prominent parts of the movie, given that it’s a key part in the main relationship. This aspect could’ve just easily been mishandled, but for all the role playing and behaviours that sees the two lead characters playing out their fantasies, it never came across as exploitative. In fact, the movie uses this as a study on power dynamics and more, even the way that this aspect plays out is unexpected at points. However, essentially the movie is about relationships, wants and desires. The plot itself is quite simple, The Duke of Burgundy is a love story, and all the focus really is on the characters and their relationship. We are given an insight into their lives, their relationship is explored in a very tasteful way, and their dynamic is more complicated than it initially seems. There are even moments of surprising comedy, which make makes the movie more entertaining than expected. Despite its simplicity, it is quite clever and well written, and despite the subject matter and some of the moments of the film, it’s a very tender movie. It is steadily paced across its 104-minute runtime. If you aren’t into the story and characters by the first third of the movie, you might find this a tough film to watch because it really takes its time with everything. However as someone who was invested in what was happening, I liked it, and appreciated it for doing that.

The-Duke-of-Burgundy-DAnna[1]

The cast are quite limited, much of the movie is just the lead actors in Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen, and both of them are incredible in their respective parts. The relationship between these two characters is the most important part of the movie, and the development of this relationship is so subtle that it really asks a lot of the actors to convey these changes and emotions in a way that seems natural, and they really did that. Knudsen is particularly fantastic, especially with the way things between her and D’Anna progress and change over the course of the movie.

MV5BZDJkYWFhM2ItMGM4NS00MmY2LWJkODgtYzljNjMyMmJjNDQ2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjEyODU2NDI@._V1_CR0,39,570,321_UY675_CR144,0,1200,675_AL_[1]

This is the first movie I saw from Peter Strickland, and he’s certainly shown himself to be a great director from this one movie. Despite the simplicity of the plot, The Duke of Burgundy really is fantastic on a technical level and further elevates the movie. The cinematography is stunning with some memorable imagery (especially with nature), and it really compliments the rest of the movie. The editing is solid too, as well as important. As the movie progresses, it gets increasingly more surreal on a visual level. The sound design is superb, and so is the score from Cat’s Eye. With all of these elements combined, it makes the movie have this dreamlike feeling throughout. It really is one of the strongest examples of a movie where all the technical elements are working perfectly together in sync.

18BURGUNDY2-superJumbo

The Duke of Burgundy is not for everyone, but I thought it was great. I was invested with what was happening with the story and characters, it was excellent on a technical level, and the performances from Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen were fantastic.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021) Review

the-eyes-of-tammy-faye-film-review-tiff-2021

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Drug use & sex scenes
Cast:
Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker
Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker
Cherry Jones as Rachel Grover
Vincent D’Onofrio as Jerry Falwell
Director: Michael Showalter

In the 1970s, Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband, Jim, rise from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park. Tammy Faye becomes legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, financial improprieties, scheming rivals and a scandal soon threaten to topple their carefully constructed empire.

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

I heard about The Eyes of Tammy Faye for quite a while, it’s a biopic starring Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield that had some awards hype. When it received Oscar nominations including Chastain for Best Actress, I thought I’d check it out. I wasn’t expecting much from it honestly, I don’t know much (if anything) about Tammy Faye, but it looked like a typical awards bait biopic. In a way it was another standard biopic with the acting being the strongest part of it, however it was considerably better than expected.

tammy-faye

I should mention again that I didn’t know anything about Tammy Faye Bakker before going into this movie, so my knowledge of her only comes from the film. Most people who’ve seen the movie seem to say that the writing is average and the performances are really what make the movie worth watching, which I completely understand. But for what it’s worth, I thought the story was interesting and entertaining enough, even if it’s not good enough to elevate the whole film to being good on the whole. I found the subjects so different and interesting for a biopic, and the ridiculousness of the Bakkers as played by Chastain and Garfield made the comedy jump out. They made it mildly fun to watch and went some way to make me actually pay attention to what was happening. Unfortunately, it still played the drama too straight and serious considering how ridiculous its subjects are. The Eyes of Tammy Faye really could’ve benefitted from leaning into the absurdity and potentially into satire territory, even to at least I, Tonya levels. However, it really jumps between absurdity and being serious, resulting in a disjointed experience. Despite some entertaining aspects, the film is still on the whole a by the numbers and standard biopic. It falls into the many shortcomings that you’d expect from most biopics, with another repackaged rise and fall story with marital strife and drug addiction which we’ve seen many times before. It also has one of the worst (and unfortunately common) biopic failings with it once again feeling like a Wikipedia article skim being processed and generated into a 2 hour long movie, breezing through significant topics and moments with montages and brief scenes, but not capturing everything in a satisfying way. Even as someone who didn’t really know anything about Tammy Faye beforehand, I still felt like the movie didn’t do enough to explore her. That’s a shame because it seemed like there was a lot of interesting material with potential. The film just jumps so fast through Tammy’s life, it might’ve better served as a limited series if the filmmakers were that determined to capture her whole life instead of just a section of it.

409de53a-3ef1-484c-a7bd-5424a9b7188c-Eyes_of_Tammy_Faye

The acting is the strongest part of the movie, especially from the hammy yet great performances from Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield as Tammy Faye Bakker and Jim Bakker respectively. Chastain delivers one of her best works here. She is definitely very over the top but doesn’t let the performance fall into a caricature or make a mockery of Tammy. It is an empathetic, lived in and committed performance that makes Tammy feel like a person. Andrew Garfield is also really good in an integral part of the story, and shares convincing chemistry with Chastain. However Chastain’s Tammy Faye is definitely the focus in this movie. The supporting cast is also good, especially Vincent D’Onofrio and Cherry Jones in their roles.

the-eyes-of-tammy-faye

The direction from Michael Showalter is pretty good. The cinematography is nice and framed well, the costumes and hair are on point and capture the time period well. Most of the makeup work is great, especially for the work on Jessica Chastain to make her look closer to the real-life Tammy Faye.

Jessica-Chastain-in-Eyes-of-Tammy-Faye

Despite its strengths and entertaining aspects, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is yet another passable but typical biopic with many of the familiar shortcomings. However, it is generally written and directed well enough, and I can’t deny that I was glad to have watched it even putting the acting aside. So while it really could’ve been much better, I think it is well worth checking out, mainly for the performances, especially from Jessica Chastain.

The Worst Person in the World (2021) Review

download

The Worst Person in the World

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Sex scenes, nudity, drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Renate Reinsve as Julie
Anders Danielsen Lie as Aksel
Herbert Nordrum as Eivind
Director: Joachim Trier

A young woman (Renate Reinsve) battles indecisiveness as she traverses the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path.

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 some great things about The Worst Person in the World. Along with having a very memorable title, it had been receiving acclaim, even receiving an award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival. I really didn’t know what to expect going into it, but having seen it, I think that it really deserves all of the acclaim.

THE-WORST-PERSON-IN-THE-WORLD-Verdens-Verste-Menneske-c-Oslo-Pictures-52

The screenplay is heavy hitting, poignant and handled with such care. This character study is structured into 12 chapters, along with a prologue and epilogue. It is almost structured like a book, which I thought was effective especially as it covers a period of the main character’s life. It is effectively a romantic comedy, it is genuinely funny and entertaining to watch, and is also powerful with some emotionally cathartic scenes. At the same time, it does well at subverting the well-known romcom tropes and feels very fresh. This movie is also a coming-of-age film for adults, and it is authentic, empathetic and human with its writing. It’s a thought-provoking movie about self discovery and struggling to figure out what you desire in life. It is deeply touching and has such a depth to it that I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes the writing can be messy especially with the pacing, some of it can be inconsistent between chapters, but in a way, that reflects its lead character’s complicated headspace so it works. As we go through chapters of the protagonist’s life, I found myself engaged with what was happening, I was invested in her journey and seeing where it was going.

02-Credit-Kasper-Tuxen,-©-Oslo-Pictures-DIGITAL

There are some incredible and naturalistic performances as the characters, everyone is great. First of all is Renate Reinsve who is phenomenal in the lead role of Julie. She is a tricky character to play, someone who frustrates yet radiates empathy, and she handles this very well. She’s someone who is always unfulfilled with her decisions in life, and Renata effectively conveys the subtlety and hidden layers of the character in a very nuanced way. We’ve seen many of these types of (for lack of a better word) self-destructive characters, but here it feels raw, genuine. It’s an incredible performance and she definitely deserved that Cannes award she received. Anders Danielsen Lie is sensational and riveting, and his last scenes are particularly hard hitting. Herbert Nordru is also great, so is the rest of the cast.

MCDWOPE EC008

Joaquim Trier’s direction is practically flawless here. The cinematography is crisp and stunning, it looks amazing from beginning to end. There are also some very standout sequences which are creative. One is a hallucination scene, the other (without spoiling things) begins with the flipping of a light switch, and has to be one of the all time best scenes from 2021.

the-worst-person-in-the-world

The Worst Person in the World is one of the best romantic comedies in recent years, and one of my favourite movies of 2021. It is a melancholic, funny, emotional and thought provoking romantic dramedy, directed and written incredibly and with phenomenal performances. Check it out when you can.

Licorice Pizza (2021) Review

LICORICE PIZZA

Licorice Pizza

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language, sexual references & drug references
Cast:
Alana Haim as Alana Kane
Cooper Hoffman as Gary Valentine
Sean Penn as Jack Holden
Tom Waits as Rex Blau
Bradley Cooper as Jon Peters
Benny Safdie as Joel Wachs
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.

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]

Licorice Pizza (once titled Soggy Bottom) was on my most anticipated films of 2021 list. Along with having a good cast, it is the next film from director Paul Thomas Anderson, whose work I really like. It would be something of a coming-of-age movie, and I’m not really big on those kinds of movies and the trailers weren’t exactly selling it to me, but I was willing to watch it. Having finally seen it after months of it being critically acclaimed by many people, I can say that the movie is decent, although disappointing.

fNXuXSewhJak7tLDj7nGsL

There isn’t much of a narrative to Licorice Pizza. It definitely fits into the category of hangout/vibe movies like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and I’m just not a fan of those types of films. The messy nature of the story made for a somewhat uninteresting and boring movie as the plot meanders through a number of underdeveloped subplots. For the first half it works okay but it really loses steam in the second half. When it eventually reaches its ending, it just felt unsatisfying. It is also a coming-of-age movie, and like hangout movies I’m not a huge fan of those. A big part of coming-of-age stories is that they rely on you caring for the story and characters and I just couldn’t do that with Licorice Pizza. The lead characters were watchable, but it felt more like I was observing them rather than being with them on their journey, despite PTA’s best efforts for it to be the latter. There’s just also something about the movie that felt empty, just mildly entertaining but nothing else. Any enjoyment I had watching them in the first half has fizzled out by the end. I couldn’t connect to any of it, and I can tell that on a rewatch I’d find the film to be worse. Licorice Pizza is definitely a comedy, and it is funny in parts, minus a couple questionable jokes involving Asian accents, whose inclusions are just some of the many odd and bad choices in the film. Finally dealing with the elephant in the room, at the centre of the movie is a relationship between a 15 year old boy and a 25 year old woman, causing quite the controversy even before its release. I went in rather open minded and waited to see how it works in the movie, and I came out of it finding the relationship to be very weird. I get that its somewhat meant to be a little uncomfortable and there are acknowledgements of it being wrong, but the way its resolved by the end just made me wonder what kind of story we sat through, or what PTA was going for here. Without spoiling things, that ending is honestly quite a confounding and strange choice. I would say that its not enough to take you out of the movie, but it is the core part of the film and so it is hard to look past.

_xlarge

There is a good cast involved. The two leads are Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, and they are very good in their parts and deliver great performances. However, the relationship between the two characters were still weird and the connection just wasn’t that believable. The supporting cast are also good, including people like Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, and Benny Safdie. Some of them only appear for a few scenes, but they usually make strong impressions when they do appear.

SF-licorice-pizza-explainer-COMP-1-1

The direction from Paul Thomas Anderson as expected was great and stylish, not as impressive as some of his other movies but still pretty good. It transports you back to the 70s, with the production design, the grainy look to fit with the 70s and the good soundtrack even if the needle drop moments were a little generic and forgettable. I also liked whenever PTA’s trademark long takes make their appearances.

licorice-pizza-sb_marketing_stills_12.00270346_CC_CROPV1c

While I’m prepared to say that I like Licorice Pizza, I can’t help but feel a little let down. Despite everything surrounding the film, I really had a lack of investment in the story and characters. Loose narratives can work, but I wasn’t interested enough to be constantly interested. In fact, the more I think about the movie, the worse it gets for me. Honestly, I would consider this to be Paul Thomas Anderson’s worst movie but I wouldn’t call it outright bad, the performances were great and so was the direction. I am aware I’m probably in a minority of people who aren’t loving it, and it is worth checking out at the very least.

The Power of the Dog (2021) Review

power_of_the_dog_01

The Power of the Dog

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Animal cruelty & content that may disturb
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank
Kirsten Dunst as Rose Gordon
Jesse Plemons as George Burbank
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon
Thomasin McKenzie as Lola
Genevieve Lemon as Mrs. Lewis
Keith Carradine as Governor Edward
Frances Conroy as Old Lady
Director: Jane Campion

A domineering rancher (Benedict Cumberbatch) responds with mocking cruelty when his brother (Jesse Plemons) brings home a new wife (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), until the unexpected comes to pass.

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 lucky enough to catch The Power of the Dog in cinemas. I hadn’t seen any movies from director Jane Campion beforehand, but I knew of some of her work like with The Piano and Top of the Lake, and this would be her return to making movies. It also has a great cast with the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons so that was enough to get me interested. I watched a teaser of the film, otherwise I went in fairly blind. It had a lot of anticipation leading up to its release, and having seen it I can say that its well-earned.

Benedict-Cumberbatch-in-The-Power-of-the-Dog-1

The first thing you need to know going into The Power of the Dog is that it is a slow burn, and I can see that really turning people off. In fact, when it does premiere on Netflix, I can easily see people turning it off after the first 20 minutes. The film does take a while to really reveal what the story really is about. I think it earns its over 2 hours runtime and pacing however, everything flows naturally and there’s a lot of attention to detail. Campion is less interested in plot than layered character dynamics, it is definitely more of a character study than a western. It is deeply complex in its characters and themes, with toxic masculinity and repressed desire being very much the leading themes, especially with the lead character. It has an effectively dreadful, unnerving and haunting atmosphere throughout, and only builds up tension even more as the film progresses. It comes together by the end in a very rewarding way with its ending.

hypatia-h_6b7de096070820ed13c53f3709c377bc-h_726c14662ecc4a98a0ec783eea89f593-300

The acting from this talented cast is fantastic as expected. First of all, this is basically Benedict Cumberbatch’s movie, and very likely his best performance yet. In the complex lead role of Phil Burbank, despite initially coming across as one note, Cumberbatch pulls off the subtle nuances of this character. This is the darkest that Cumberbatch has acted in a role, but its more than that, the journey his character goes on is unexpected. While at first it feels like he overshadows the other actors, the rest of the cast are great too. Kirsten Dunst gives a very subtle and internalised performance, playing a woman who is pushed to high levels of distress. One of her best performances. Jesse Plemons as usual is reliably good, though he does sort of disappear into the background after the first act. Kodi Smit-McPhee is great here, probably the best performance I’ve seen from him. He gets a lot of screentime in the second half, and you really see his progression over the course of the movie. His quiet and reserved character of Peter takes an interest in Cumberbatch’s Phil, and the scenes between the two are captivating. There are other brief appearances from other actors like Thomasin McKenzie too, who are also good in their scenes.

Power-of-the-Dog1-2000x1125px-2000-2000-1125-1125-crop-fill

Jane Campion directs this film excellently. There is some beautiful cinematography from Ari Wegner, taking advantage of the gorgeous location and landscapes they are filming at. At the same time, it does well at capturing the intimacy and tension of certain scenes, especially with the close ups. Jonny Greenwood’s score is amazing and practically its own character, it really adds to the tension and unsettling feeling, helping to draw you into the film.

Elenco-de-Ataque-dos-Caes-Netflix

The Power of the Dog is a steadily paced, visually gorgeous, complex and gripping character drama. It’s excellently directed and has great performances from its ensemble cast, especially from Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee. After watching this, I really want to check out more of Jane Campion’s work. The Power of the Dog is one of the best movies of the year thus far.

The French Dispatch (2021) Review

01R1_TFD_OB_002_0010_V022_1282

The French Dispatch

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language, nudity, drug use & sexual references
Cast:
Bill Murray as Arthur Howitzer Jr.
Owen Wilson as Herbsaint Sazerac
Tilda Swinton as J.K.L. Berensen
Benicio del Toro as Moses Rosenthaler
Adrien Brody as Julien Cadazio
Léa Seydoux as Simone
Frances McDormand as Lucinda Krementz
Timothée Chalamet as Zeffirelli
Lyna Khoudri as Juliette
Jeffrey Wright as Roebuck Wright
Mathieu Amalric as The Commissaire
Stephen Park as Lt. Nescaffier
Director: Wes Anderson

A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch.”

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]

At the New Zealand International Film Festival, I managed to secure tickets for three movies I wanted to see. The first was Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch which I’ve been looking forward to. I had been interested in it from the cast, the trailer and of course Anderson directing, who has made a lot of movies I really liked. But I was especially looking forward to it after going through his whole filmography from beginning to end, and by the end I liked him even more as a director. So I was excited for The French Dispatch, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.

056_FD_SG_07353

The French Dispatch’s plot is about a magazine with the same name, with the movie beginning with the death of the editor (played by Bill Murray). The story we follow is about the magazine, and the articles in it. As such, the film is essentially an anthology movie, made up of some short stories. With it being an anthology movie, it comes with the typical trappings. The tone changes with every section, and some sections are better than others. However, I liked them all. In a way it is his most messy and disjointed film, but it compliments his style. I do think that it’s a strong contender for his least accessible movie, I wouldn’t recommend this being your first Wes Anderson movie. As someone who has seen all his other movies, I really enjoyed it. It was very entertaining and delightful with some great humour. Each of his story very clearly has Anderson’s wit that we’ve come to expect from him, especially with the memorable dialogue. However it’s not only a very fun movie to watch, you really feel the passion behind it. Essentially, The French Dispatch is a love letter to journalists. I’ve seen some people say that this movie feels emotionally distant even by Wes Anderson’s standards, but I thoroughly disagree. There are some genuinely tender and heartfelt moments across the three stories. The anthology approach to the overall story made it feel like you are reading a book or magazine at times, which was for its benefit. All the stories are at the very least enjoyable to watch. There is an introduction segment following Owen Wilson, which is light hearted and fun to watch, definitely a good way to start the stories. The first of the main three stories follows Benicio Del Toro as an artist in a prison, and this is probably my favourite of three stories. The second of the stories is about a student protest, and stars Timothee Chalamet. I do like this story but its distinctly my least favourite of the three. I really didn’t know where it was going, and I don’t mean in a good way. The pacing is inconsistent across the film but this was the only case where it really started to weigh on the movie. The third of the stories follows Jeffrey Wright and its about a kidnapping. It was nearly my favourite of the three and it was a great story to end on.

the-french-dispatch-bill-murray

The French Dispatch has an absurdly large cast, by far the largest cast that Wes Anderson has worked with. In terms of the main actors in the stories, the first story stars Benicio Del Toro, Lea Seydoux, Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton, the second segment has Timothee Chalamet and Frances McDormand, and the third segment has Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, and Stephen Chow. There’s also the head of the newspaper played by Bill Murray. The cast are all welcome to see and are fantastic in their parts, even though most of them are only here for brief appearances.

FRENCH1

Wes Anderson is the director and you can clearly feel that throughout. In fact this film is so Wes Anderson you could almost call it a self parody. It’s his most unique movie and that’s really saying a lot, with some shots in this that aren’t anything like he’s done before. It is aesthetically pleasing with fantastic visuals. We’ve come to expect this from Wes but every time he somehow surprises. It flips certain shots from black and white to colour, it even shifts aspect ratio, and even changes between live action to animation. The Alexandre Desplat perfectly fits the movie and the overall tone.

7ebb986d-b338-4cd3-ac97-2812d1c16b75-The_French_Dispatch

This is the most Wes Anderson movie possible, and I’m not sure if everyone will like it. I think it’s definitely a contender for being one of the more divisive Anderson movies. However I really liked it. I loved the anthology approach with three distinct stories, with each having something to love about them. I loved the performances from the stacked cast (with Jeffrey Wright and Benicio Del Toro being among the highlights), and I loved the direction from Anderson. Definitely among my favourite films from 2021 thus far.