Category Archives: Romance

The Duke of Burgundy (2015) Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Amelie (2001) Review

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Amelie

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains sexual references
Cast:
Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain
Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino Quincampoix
Rufus as Raphaël Poulain
Serge Merlin as Raymond Dufayel
Lorella Cravotta as Amandine Poulain
Clotilde Mollet as Gina
Claire Maurier as Suzanne
Isabelle Nanty as Georgette
Dominique Pinon as Joseph
Artus de Penguern as Hipolito
Yolande Moreau as Madeleine Wallace
Urbain Cancelier as Collignon
Jamel Debbouze as Lucien
Maurice Bénichou as Dominique Bretodeau
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Despite being caught in her imaginative world, Amelie (Audrey Tautou), a young waitress, decides to help people find happiness. Her quest to spread joy leads her on a journey where she finds true love.

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I had seen Amelie appear on many “Best movies ever” lists, and for whatever reason I just hadn’t gotten around to watching it beforehand. All I really knew about it was that it was French and quirky, but that’s about it. Having finally seen it I don’t know why it took me so long to watch it, and I now know why it is considered a classic.

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Something to note about this movie is that the plot is pretty slight. The story of Amelie follows its lead character who makes a surprising discovery in her apartment one day, and she uses that to complete a good deed. It pays off well and so she dedicates herself to helping others find joy and happiness in their own lives in the most unexpected ways, while struggling with the isolation of her own life. That’s it when it comes to the plot though. The screenplay is marvellous, and everything is well put together, from how it opens the story, introduces all its characters (especially Amelie), paces the narrative, and keeps everything glued together. It is a very peculiar story especially in relation to Amelie’s life, and it is all presented with an irresistible charm, and with such wonder. The film with all of its eccentricities was simply delightful, lovely and surprisingly humorous, and all of it really adds a lot to the film’s personality. At its core, Amelie is a celebration of life and a story about embracing the little things in life, and it’s done in a sweet and endearing, yet very intelligent way. Throughout its runtime, it takes some time to ponder on little moments that might initially seem irrelevant to the narrative at hand, yet without these little moments, the film just wouldn’t be the same. They add to the movie in their own ways. The movie is around 2 hours and 10 minutes long, but I was into everything from beginning to end despite the less plot driven approach.

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Coming to the characters, there are many memorable characters in this movie, even the minor characters are memorable, and they are all performed well by the cast. With that said, the biggest stand out of course is Audrey Tautou in the lead role of Amelie Poulain. Amelie is such a wonderful and easily likable character, and Audrey beautifully captures her innocent, naïve and shy nature. It’s actually impossible to imagine anyone else playing this role. As great as the rest of the movie already is, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if Amelie wasn’t as perfectly performed and portrayed as she was here.

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The film is directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and his work here is fantastic. What’s immediately noticeable when starting the movie is that the film’s visuals are notably gorgeous in pretty much every single shot, with every frame is bursting with unique life. The cinematography really is stunning, especially when it comes to the use of the magnificent colour palette used. The colours often correlating between the characters and the themes, and the colour gradients are so spectacular that they could rival even the most vivid Wes Anderson movies. There is always at least a hint of stunning shade of green, red or orange in just about every shot, and the colours pop like crazy. The colours, lighting and production design all contributed to create this fantasy and dream like feeling and aesthetic. The cinematography and editing are unorthodox in a smart way, it makes the film more eccentric, and the film becomes even more vibrant because of it. Some of the editing and CGI can be a little dated in an early 2000s way, but even that adds some level of charm to it. Also worth high praise is Yann Tiersen’s mesmerising score which works and elevates the whole ambience of the narrative seamlessly.

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Amelie is a quirky, heartfelt and entertaining coming of age movie. It is delightful from beginning to end, directed and shot vibrantly and with such energy, and has a perfect lead performance from Audrey Tautou. It’s really no surprise how it became widely loved amongst mainstream audiences. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

Reminiscence (2021) Review

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Reminiscence

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, drug use & suicide
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister
Rebecca Ferguson as Mae
Thandiwe Newton as Emily “Watts” Sanders
Cliff Curtis as Cyrus Boothe
Marina de Tavira as Tamara Sylvan
Daniel Wu as Saint Joe
Director: Lisa Joy

Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed as he uncovers a violent conspiracy while trying to solve the mystery behind a client (Rebecca Ferguson) who disappeared.

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I was quite curious about Reminiscence going into it, I liked how it looked from the trailers, I liked the cast involved including Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, and the director is Lisa Joy, who is one of the creators of Westworld. I was a little hesitant after seeing the less than stellar critical response, but I wanted to see it for myself. I’m definitely in the minority of people who actually liked it, despite some clear issues.

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The premise about investigating the mind is great, and the concept of being able to recall memories definitely gives the film the ability to use flashbacks in a natural way that actually works within the context of the plot. It is definitely reminiscent of other sci-fi movies, borrowing from films like Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I still like what was done here. However, I think a lot of this could’ve been executed better. The pacing wasn’t the best, it takes quite a while for the plot to really progress, and some of the story is fairly predictable. I liked the story for the most part, I was on board throughout and it never really lost me. With that said, the story is definitely more interesting after a slower first half. Reminiscence is very neo noir inspired and I really liked that aspect of the film. I also really liked the world that is being built here, even if it comes with some issues in the way that Lisa Joy decided to convey it. There is a lot of exposition in this movie as it is establishing the current state of the world and the setting, especially towards the beginning. This is probably why it takes so long for the movie to get to the actual mystery at the centre of the story. While I definitely appreciate the amount of detail and context that Joy tries to give this world, it was a bit too much. A lot of the exposition comes through Hugh Jackman narrating throughout the film, something which I’ve noticed a lot of other people complaining about. I’m somewhat inclined to give this a pass simply because it is a play on hard boiled neo-noir films to a degree. However, the use of it was nonetheless overbearing and just about borders on self-parody. Not only that, but the dialogue a lot of the time is very over-melodramatic at many points. While it does feel like it doesn’t feel like it meets its potential and is a little disappointing, I wouldn’t say that the script is bad by any means.

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While much of the characters feel a little underdeveloped, the acting from the solid cast definitely elevates them. Hugh Jackman does a very good job in the lead role as expected. Everyone else does well, Rebecca Ferguson is particularly a standout, and actors like Thandiwe Newton and Cliff Curtis are also great in their parts.

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This is Lisa Joy’s directorial debut, and while there are some issues, I think it’s a good first film. First of all, this movie has some stunning cinematography, and the production design is solid. This noir inspired futuristic setting is gorgeous and fascinating to watch, at the very least on a visual level. There aren’t a ton of action scenes, but they are decent when they are there. There is a particularly creative action scene that takes place inside a collapsing building. Sometimes the CGI is a bit too noticeable but it didn’t bring me out of the movie. The score from Game of Thrones and Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi is great and really fits the tone and vibe of the film.

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Once again, I don’t think that Reminiscence really reaches the peak of its potential, and it was a little disappointing, with the script definitely being the weakest point. However, I was still invested throughout, I liked what Lisa Joy was going for, and it has some really good moments. Joy’s direction and the performances from the cast (especially Jackman and Ferguson) are also great, and elevates the overall quality of the film. At the very least I do think that it is worth checking out.

Thirst (2009) Review

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Thirst

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Horror, violence, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Sang-hyun
Kim Ok-bin as Tae-ju
Kim Hae-sook as Mrs. Ra
Shin Ha-kyun as Kang-woo
Park In-hwan as Priest Roh
Song Young-chang as Seung-dae
Oh Dal-su as Young-du
Director: Park Chan-wook

Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), a priest working for a hospital, selflessly volunteers for a secret vaccine development project intended to eradicate a deadly virus. However, the virus eventually takes over the priest. He nearly dies, but makes a miraculous recovery by an accidental transfusion of vampire blood. He realizes his sole reason for living: the pleasures of the flesh.

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I was interested in Thirst by the mere fact that Park Chan-wook directed it. I was interested to see how a vampire movie by Park would be. Additionally, I really like Song Kang-ho as an actor, and so him playing the lead here interested me greatly. Thirst is one of the most unique vampire movies I’ve seen, it might be a little overloaded with what it tries to do, but overall, I thought it was quite good.

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As I said earlier, Thirst is a unique take on the vampire genre. The film takes many familiar gothic tropes and utilises them and plays around with them in a interesting way. Despite these tropes being quite traditional and the story structure having been used many times before, the film still manages to feel distinct. As a vampire story it stands out, and the transition from human to vampire was told in a compelling way. With that said, calling Thirst merely a vampire movie would be doing it a disservice. It really is a blend of different genres and elements including horror, drama and comedy, with the end result being a gory psychological horror romantic thriller (and even that doesn’t quite do it justice). The story puts the main character in an interesting dilemma as he goes on a very dark journey when he becomes a vampire. The characters are very well developed, especially the two lead characters, and the story is suspenseful. The writing is strong, with sharp and witty dialogue. Thirst is also weirdly funny like some of Park’s other movies, or really a lot of other dark South Korean thrillers in general. There’s a certain level of quirkiness throughout. This movie is filled to the brim with thought provoking themes and complex topics that Park takes on. The movie deals with love, passion, belief, sin and desire, and portrays the darker side of humanity. Also Thirst places at a close second for most passionate and erotic films from Park Chan-wook right behind The Handmaiden (the film’s title of Thirst really does have a double meaning). I will say that it really does feel like Thirst is trying to cover a lot, most of it works but at times it feels like it is trying to handle too much. Thirst is also definitely a slow burn, it’s very deliberately paced and seems to meander early in the movie. It also does feel quite long, and potentially it could’ve been a little shorter.

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Another strong aspect of the movie is the performances, which are fantastic. Song Kang-ho gives a stellar performance as the lead character of a priest in crisis who becomes a vampire who struggles to hold onto his urges. Song Kang-ho embraces all the emotions his character is going through, and convincingly conveys all the conflicts that he has over the course of the movie. It’s not just him however, Kim Ok-bin also excels in the role of a housewife who goes through her own transformation into someone very different from where she started. It was thrilling to watch and was convincingly done, she really shines in the second half especially. The chemistry between the two were good, their dynamic was one of the shining points of the movie. These characters are complex and feel human, helped both by the writing and acting.

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Park Chan-wook directs this, and it’s no surprise that it’s so great on a technical level. There are some gorgeous visuals, with great cinematography and camerawork, and the set and costume designs are top notch. Also worth noting is that despite this being a vampire movie, Thirst has the recurrent colour of blue across the movie instead of red. There are some hallucinations at certain points in the movie and they are filmed quite creatively. There are lots of blood as to be expected given it’s a vampire movie and one directed by Park, and the effects are really good. The editing and the score round out the rest of the technical elements and are great in their own rights.

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Thirst may be a bit long and try to tackle a little too much thematically, but on the whole it’s a great and unique take on vampires, and a great psychological romantic horror thriller. Park Chan-wook directs it excellently, the story is engaging and has a lot going on, and the lead performances from Song Kang-ho and Kim Ok-bin are fantastic. If you like vampire movies, horror movies and/or Park Chan-wook movies, I highly recommend checking it out.

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

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I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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