Category Archives: Movie Reviews

All of my movie reviews…

Michael Clayton (2007) Review – How Much is Your Life Worth?

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To write Michael Clayton is a packed film would be an understatement. This movie is complex in all its facets, from the chilling story to the movie’s characters that are anything but black and white. In fact, the film is so packed that I don’t think you can fully appreciate it on your first viewing. Sure, the main story isn’t “complicated”, so you won’t get lost and will understand everything perfectly fine on your first viewing, but there are many details throughout the film that I would imagine reward repeating viewings.

Michael Clayton was a directing debut for Tony Gilroy. If you aren’t familiar with him, he made his name as a screenwriter; and he was one of the main screenwriters behind all the Bourne movies, which immediately gives him a pretty good credit. And you can tell he also wrote this film too because it feels a bit “Bourneian”. The sense of paranoia, where you never know what will happen next, all the characters are scheming to get what they need… Michael Clayton might be one of the last truly great corporate thrillers, where you are in for a ride and entertained for the entire time. That is my first compliment; I have never “felt” the runtime. This film is 119 minutes, but in the end, I felt like spending more time in this world which is always a good sign.

Another thing this movie has going for it is the casting. No wonder George Clooney was nominated for an Oscar for this role as he not only nailed, he lived it. He became Michael Clayton, the man you don’t kill but buy. Sure, this is the most famous scene/moment from this film (and rightly so, it is an excellent finale), but even throughout the movie, Clooney managed to be charismatic but in a different way. Let me explain – George has always been one of those actors who is a “walking charisma”. It’s hard to hate him, and he uses that charisma in most of his films hence why he gets roles that are quite similar. But, in Michael Clayton, he has managed to switch to a different “charisma mode” somehow and carried himself differently. And that’s a sign of a great actor, especially somebody on his level of “fame” – you never forget it’s George, but at the same time, this seems like the least “Clooney” we’ve gotten from him. I hope this makes sense.

What I also need to talk about is Tom Wilkinson. Talk about nailing a role; Tom chewed up every scene he was in. What I loved about his performance was how it wasn’t one note. We are introduced to him as he is “going crazy” in one important meeting, and then we get some other scenes with him where he feels unhinged. And yet, after his encounter with George on the street, where he has to convince us he isn’t crazy, he nails it. That scene alone was worth the nomination, how he managed to subtly “flip the switch” and prove to us and George’s character that there might be something more sinister going on.

And this is where we are delving into the story. It would be so easy for this film to turn “preachy” as the movie’s message could be distilled into “corporations bad”. But as with every oversimplification, you will lose all the nuances, as Michael Clayton is the perfect example of how to make a movie about “corporations bad” and succeed. The trick is “simple” – there are no heroes. There are just people. And as cheesy as this might sound, nobody is purely good or evil, and this film understands that. Before we move and discuss these complex characters, I can’t skip past a trivia I have learned about what the inspiration for this film was because holy fucking shit. I will let it speak for itself.

In a November 2020 interview, Clooney stated that the case in the film, while about a completely different industry, was based on the Ford Pinto case, where it wasn’t that Ford had a car that was unsafe, but that an internal memo showed that they had calculated the cost of recall versus the individual suits from people being killed in the car, and determined it was cheaper to pay off claims and not do the recall.

Source: IMDb.com

That is why I have titled my review the way I had. It is not “news” to me, I have read many studies and news over the years about businesses or insurance companies calculating these morbid questions, but it hits differently when you see a news like this.

Back to the film, the complexity of our characters is the biggest reason for this film’s success. When I wrote, “there are no heroes”, I meant it. I always enjoy it when movies portray people the way people are – because nobody is a monolith. Nobody is 100% good or 100% evil. And every single character in this film proves it. Tom Wilkinson’s character was defending corporations like this and made his living out of it. And yet, he is this film’s whistleblower. Clooney is fighting for what is “right”, but his character also makes some questionable decisions. Even the already quoted finale: “I’m not the guy you kill. I’m the guy you buy!” showcases that had the company not tried to kill him, he would have been willing to look the other way. And even the main “villain” of this film, Tilda Swinton, is a complex character because everything she does is evil. Yet, we see her “in-between” her evil decisions, where she is just this nervous woman; who is “just trying to do her job”. It would be easy for her character to be this confidently evil person, but this film understands people are more complex than “he’s good, she’s bad” and vice versa.

The only reason I am not giving this film the highest rating is a feeling I had right after the ending. When the movie ended, I knew I enjoyed myself; I knew why I enjoyed it, but there was something holding me back from fully “adoring” this film. I am 99% sure that something will disappear on repeat viewings because I have to repeat myself; Michael Clayton will 100% reward multiple viewings. And I fully expect to bump my rating higher when I see this film again, but at this moment, there is some part of me stopping me from the ultimate rating.

Overall, Michael Clayton is a chilling film with amazing performances, a top-tier screenplay and a story that won’t get old, unfortunately. It is a clever film about people and corporations that doesn’t try to tell you what to think. The film would rather show you all the characters for themselves, leaving nothing unanswered, and it leaves it up to you to decide what you think of everything; more importantly, it might prompt you to put yourself in this film’s scenario. Which side would you be on, and are you sure about your answer? Michael Clayton might also be my favourite Clooney performance. I can’t wait to rewatch it already.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!

Until next time,

Luke

Army of the Dead (2021) Review – Great Ideas, Questionable Execution

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Let me start this review by stating something – I love zombie films. Even the bad ones, like most of the Resident Evil franchise (and that franchise has some spectacularly bad movies), I can still find a way to enjoy them. I don’t know what or why, but there is something appealing about zombie films to me as it’s usually not “just” about the undead, but you can see how society reacts (or would have in this movie world) to that kind of crisis. And if you go back far enough to the classic of this genre (Night of the Living Dead, 1968), you can see how zombie films could be used as a device for social commentary. The point of this was to say I really wanted to love Army of the Dead. I thought this might have been the film Zack Snyder needed to go back to his roots (as his previous zombie flick Dawn of the Dead (2004) was a brilliantly simple yet excellent zombie film) to something he knows. Oh boy, if only…

I honestly believe Zack had good intentions but went about it the wrong way. The first problem with Army of the Dead, it takes itself too seriously. The film, whose events start with a blowjob gone wrong, shouldn’t take itself that seriously, yet it does. If he wanted to do something new with the zombie genre and give it a new life (ironic, given the subject matter) because we have seen so many zombie films and TV shows lately, that’s fair enough. What is not “fair enough” is showcasing some of these ideas and then never following up on them.

Without going into spoilers, there are a couple of characters we should care about and by the end of the film, we don’t know whether they survived the ending. It’s not mentioned we don’t see their bodies, not one line of dialogue, nothing. But for me, this wasn’t even that; it was more about the other thing, like robot zombies. Yes, you read it right.

I don’t think I need to flag this as a spoiler, as again, this goes absolutely nowhere, but throughout the film, you might notice that some zombies, when killed, their heads seem to fall apart, and this blue light appears that almost shuts down. I thought I was going crazy, but once the movie was over, I read about it, and that was one of the most common complaints confirmed by IMDb’s trivia too!

Some of the zombies are robots. This is never explained in the film but Zack Snyder confirmed it: “If you pay close attention, there’s a number of zombies that are clearly not zombies. You see normal zombies and then you see some robot zombies.”

Source: IMDb.com

And this makes my blood boil. You have this new idea that can be intriguing if done correctly, and you don’t even bother to do anything with it. Sure, just show us robot zombies and don’t bother to explain anything about it. Why not? And before you or anybody else comes at me with: “Well, actually, he’s filming a TV show (Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas (2022 – ?), and there might be some sequels to this film…” I don’t care. Filmmakers must start respecting their viewers and fans and give us a solid film with a beginning, middle and end. Not a bunch of ideas that might or might not get expanded upon “if we get that TV show off the ground, or if we get a sequel greenlit”. I understand Zack isn’t the only one guilty of this “phenomena”, but this film encapsulated my biggest issue with current Hollywood. So many great ideas are thrown on the wall to see what sticks in one movie that can’t tell one singular story. Many things are “hinted at” or “winked at”. But not because the story demands it but because there are 10.264 properties linked to the success of that film. So you better pay us to make that first property successful; otherwise, you will never know what this detail means, and we definitely don’t get to explore this cool idea too!

The trouble with this new modern approach is simple – there is so much stuff out there for us to watch your movie/TV show can be the best thing ever made, but sometimes even those require time for people to catch up. Another, possibly even more crucial point, is that we (the audience) deserve full movies. It used to be that only a great movie gets a sequel, either based on the critical reception or the box office numbers (in an ideal case, it was a mix of both, but let’s face it, it’s all about money). But nowadays, films don’t even have a trailer out, and they are already viewed as a “starting platform” for other things, so we get many “hints” throughout the film for “things to come”. And then, when the movie flops, and we never get those sequels, we are left with a film like Army of the Dead, full of intriguing ideas but lacking in execution.

Also, I need to mention something else that bothers me – Zack Snyder was once upon a time one of those directors I watched out for. I wanted to see everything they were making. Because I loved his first two films, the already mentioned Dawn of the Dead and 300 (2006, my review here), is still one of my favourite movies of all time; despite all its flaws, I love that movie unapologetically. And even his version of Watchmen (2009) I liked more than most. However, I need to revisit it now, especially with my knowledge of the tv show Watchmen (2019), to see how that holds up. But lately, with everything Zack is throwing our way, I find myself bored with his style. I understand some people still adore him, and honestly, good for you. But unless one of his next movies does something different, I don’t think I will ever get as excited for his films as I did ten years ago. And why? Because he is all about the visuals, the spectacle, and does not care too much about the actors, as proven by this movie. Take Ella Purnell, for example. Thankfully I know what she is capable of because of Yellowjackets (2022 – ?, my review here), but if I were to judge her based on this film alone… It’s not like she’s awful in this film, but it’s more about she’s not good here either…? It is not just her; I could say the same about any other actor in this film. I singled Ella out for a simple reason; I know she can do better because I have seen her much better in other things, mainly Yellowjackets. And that (good actors being just ‘meh’) goes behind the director, who is focused more on stuff looking cool and setting up thousands of different projects, rather than him being focused on delivering one spectacularly great film. It’s a shame; I used to be a big Snyder fan.

Overall, Army of the Dead is a wasted potential of something that could have been a slick and fun zombie flick. There are still some great and cool scenes to watch, but for every great scene in this film, you get something that never gets explained or a performance that doesn’t hit you at all. You don’t care about any of these characters, and that’s bad, mainly in… you know, a zombie survival movie. You should be rooting for them to survive, not looking forward to some creative way they can die. Would I recommend Army of the Dead? If you are a die-hard Snyder fan, sure. If you love zombie horror, approach it with caution, just like you would an actual zombie.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!

Until next time,

Luke

Benedetta (2021) Review – Verhoeven On Religion

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If there is a director who seems to be on a steady “comeback trail”, it is Paul Verhoeven. One of the most influential directors of the late 80s and early 90s, whose career was put… let’s say, on hold after making one of the worst box-office bombs of all time. Yes, I am aware it developed a cult following since then, but Showgirls (1995, my review here) was a massive failure. Sure, by today’s standards, it’s not that bad, making only $22 million dollars on a $45 million dollars budget; however… if you consider a movie needs to earn roughly 2.5x its budget back before even breaking even (at least that is the widely accepted rule of thumb) and also remember this was back in 1995, where the dollar was worth much more… that must have hurt. Anyway, Benedetta is only Verhoeven’s sixth film after Showgirls, and there is a gap of 26 years! And based on this, Black Book (2006) I saw around the time it came out, I am hoping he might do more films “a bit” more often than that. Because underneath all that nudity his movies are known for, there is always something more to chew on. And Benedetta is no exception.

I think your enjoyment of this film will correlate with your views on religion. I would imagine somebody who isn’t religious at all (like me) might enjoy Benedetta just a “smidge” more than a Christian who has always led a religious life. Sure, some religious people can set aside their faith and watch any movie that openly talks and (let’s face it, more often than not) critiques religion with just their “movie fan” hat on, but I think those were exemptions proving the rule. As you can see, I put my cards on the table; I have always been open about being an atheist, therefore, I bring my own baggage into this – I don’t think religion is necessary anymore. But that’s for another debate altogether; we are here to talk about Benedetta. And believe it or not, I don’t think Paul is being cheeky with religion or Christians or anything like that. I think the point of this film is to showcase the main flaw with any religion – people.

Take our main heroine, Benedetta. She realises that everything she does throughout the film is conscious. Yet she manages to persuade herself that she only does it because Jesus told her to do it. She somehow started thinking of herself as nothing more than a mere vessel for him. Therefore, anything she does is justified because she is but an extension of Jesus’s will. The problem with this logic is that, in reality, you can’t disprove it or argue with it. As that quote by Gregory House (yes, from the show House M.D. (2004 – 2012)) went: “You talk to God, you’re religious; God talks to you, you’re psychotic.” I don’t think this film portrayed Benedetta as a villain, quite the opposite. Her character genuinely believes (or made herself believe) that she was the vessel. And that is why I don’t think Verhoeven was being cheeky while making the film. If you stick with this film until the end, you will see that her character is flawed, but she puts everything, her love, passion and possibly her life, in danger because she believes she was the chosen one.

Benedetta was a fascinating film because the moment the movie ends, some people (myself included) will learn this was based on an actual person. There actually was a nun called Benedetta Carlini, and this film was (loosely) based on her story alongside the book Immodest Acts from 1987. I haven’t read the book, but now I am tempted to read it because this story was a unique “ride”. Let me explain – when you see the amount of nudity here, you might “take the bait” to think something like: “Oh well, Paul be Verhoeven again, horny old bastard.” And then you read a few things about the book and Benedetta’s actual life, and you realize that Benedetta couldn’t have been made in any other way. Sure, you can try and sanitize the story, but then the film would not have worked.

That is one thing I always admired about Verhoeven’s work; he pushes boundaries. He isn’t afraid of anything and is willing to show all the details others would have shied away from. And I am not talking about the nudity here, just the overall picture. It would be so easy to make Benedetta into a scheming woman; who is obsessed with power. Of course, you can see glimpses of that in Virginie Efira‘s brilliant performance, but, as I mentioned before, her character is so complex you can easily argue she was just a “victim” of circumstances. The same set of circumstances that almost “allowed” her to do what she did. Without spoiling anything, before the last ten minutes of this movie happened, I was convinced she was “just” a power-hungry scheming individual. But the ending convinced me to see her as a more complex character. So yeah, Paul has done it again, pushed some boundaries, and delivered a film you won’t see every day.

Overall, Benedetta will probably be labelled as the “horny nuns” film, but it is so much more. If you don’t get too distracted by the nudity, you will discover that there is a compelling story about a few women and in the centre of all their lives; lies religion. It is their relationship with religion, and with each other that they need to wrestle with throughout this movie. Benedetta might be a difficult film to sit through for some people, but I would encourage it, mainly because the film is not as black and white as it might seem.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!

Until next time,

Luke

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022) Review – What ‘Space Jam 2’ Should Have Been

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I think I speak for almost everyone born in the 1990s that Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (1988 – 1990) was the shit. I still remember waking up early on Saturdays and Sundays just to catch two episodes of this show, back to back (at least that is how they aired it in the Czech Republic). You need to understand that back then, there was no Internet, no instant recording/replay, and definitely no smart TVs. If you missed it, you would have to wait possibly months before the TV would repeat those episodes. Anyway, the point is, I, like many, have grown up watching Chip and Dale. And therefore I was quite nervous when I saw this film coming out, as these live-action films of known properties from the past don’t turn out that great. To my surprise, almost all early reviews were somehow positive…? And after watching it, I can confirm that I understand why, as this movie is delightfully funny.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is definitely more than a nostalgia-based film. It is a movie that, in 20 years, might just define this era of comedies and this “meta”, fast-paced humour we all still like…? Well, at least, that is what studios think, so we get movies jammed with meta humour. And some of it works, and some do not. Luckily for this film, it balances everything well enough. And I think that is this movie’s biggest strength.

The movie never goes overboard with anything, and it “dips its toes” in nostalgia, meta humour, and current pop culture, but smartly, it never goes “too deep” in one direction. There was never too much nostalgia, so you don’t have to watch the original TV show to get it. There was never too much meta humour, so if you don’t get some jokes, it’s fine; because the movie quickly moves along to something else. And I hate to compare or mention other films while talking about this film, but this is what Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) was going for and failed horribly.

If you saw Space Jam: A New Legacy, first of all, I feel you. I saw it too, and it is, without any shadow of a doubt, one of the worst films of 2021. But more importantly, it was crowded with so many pop-culture references and IP jokes (aka look at what we own and therefore can put into our movie) that they forgot to tell any story. And sure, even the first Space Jam (1996) wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but that movie knew how to own itself and not take itself too seriously. This one felt like it drank its kool-aid a bit too much. And this is where we need to leave this horrible sequel and go back to Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers.

You could tell everybody behind that film loved the TV show and possibly would have made this film for free. Because no matter how crazy some jokes got, the movie was always focused on the story first, any jokes, meta humour or pop-culture references second. And this is the reason A New Legacy failed, and this movie, no matter how similar it might look on paper, succeeded. It’s all about the execution, reigning your film in, and making sure it never derails from its tracks.

Is Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers a flawless film? No. At times, the film manages to feel a bit long, and I think some jokes will age badly. Not that there would be something inappropriate, but some meta humour came from “what’s hip right now”, so how relevant will “Ugly Sonic” be in 20 years and will kids or even adults watching it in 2042 understand what that joke means? I don’t think so, but who knows? Maybe they will because of this film. That would be my only negative against this film; if you delve into meta humour and pop culture, chances are some jokes will be dated sooner than you think.

Overall, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers surprised me, and that might be an understatement of the year. What could have been another “soulless cash grab using nostalgia to milk more money out of us” turned into a decent detective story with characters we knew and loved. It also (hopefully) re-introduced this awesome TV show to today’s kids. And that might be the biggest win for this film. If you used to watch the show as a kid, you might enjoy it going back into this world, even though it’s changed. And if you have never seen the show at all, it might tempt you to check it out. There are worse ways to kill 99 minutes of your time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!

Until next time,

Luke

Holmes & Watson (2018) Review – Waste of… Everything

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It’s been a while since a movie came out that was so universally panned and hated as Holmes & Watson. I remember hearing quite literally no positive opinions about this film. So naturally, I have avoided it, but there was a part of me that became morbidly curious about this movie. It is kind of like when something terrible happens, like a car accident, and you are passing it. You know you shouldn’t look, but you just can’t help yourself. When Holmes & Watson landed on one of the streaming services I subscribe to, my curiosity got the better of me, and I watched it. One of the single worst decisions I have made in my life… yet.

On the surface, the idea was solid, and some fun could have been had with the premise: “What if THE Sherlock Holmes wasn’t as brilliant?” Sure, it’s not the most groundbreaking idea of all time, but for a comedy starring two brilliant comedians, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, you think this might be something decent. But boy, you would be wrong, same as me. Holmes & Watson dares to ask you: “How much can you endure?” And then, it gives you ten times more cringe than you would ever suspect. How the mighty have fallen.

I honestly believe the biggest issue with this film was the premise because there is nothing more to this film. Sometimes, you can build a movie based on the simplest of premises, sure. But those films are rarely comedies, and even less often do they stay as one-note as this film. Remember when I wrote the premise was simple? Did I mention they literally repeat the same joke throughout the entire movie? The joke, of course, is: “Look what an idiot Sherlock is.” After the third or fourth time, I was thinking: “Surely, this won’t be like this for the entire movie, right…?” Nope, it was. Many variations on Sherlock being idiotic or people in this film referencing modern-day pop culture. This movie felt like a long, unfunny SNL sketch.

But you know what’s even worse than a comedy with an unfunny premise? A comedy with an unfunny premise that is full of talented performers. The already mentioned Will and John have been amazing before, but there are many more great people here, from Rebecca HallRalph Fiennes to Hugh Laurie and Kelly Macdonald! And since they can only work with what they were given, literally all of them are wasted in this film. I wish I could say any of these performers stepped up and “saved” this film, but I can’t. It felt like this film was a curse that didn’t allow anybody to escape or, in this case, be funny. I can’t blame any of these talented people because I understand there is only so much any performer can do.

And this is Holmes & Watson in a nutshell. You watch a rejected SNL skit that somehow got stretched into an hour and a half movie that could be “mildly amusing” had it stayed a two-minute sketch. But it didn’t; we got 90 minutes of suffering while talented performers are making fools of themselves where you are embarrassed for them. I genuinely hope they at least got paid very well; imagine having this movie on their resume, making it for next to nothing, only to see the final result. How devastating would that be?

Overall, Holmes & Watson is an awful movie that should be avoided at all costs. For one “alright” joke, you get 23.358 others that simply miss, the plot is predictable, and you can’t believe your eyes. If you are like me and your morbid curiosity is telling you to check this movie out because surely, it can’t be that bad, can it? Yes, yes, it can. Be smarter than me, and even if you enjoy awful movies; avoid this one.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!

Until next time,

Luke

Sorry to Bother You (2018) Review – Movie About… Everything?

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There are subtle movies you can analyze and speculate about for hours on end, wondering what this or that scene means. And then, there are films like Sorry to Bother You that aren’t subtle about their message or what they are trying to say. Sure, often enough, that is negative when a film does not know the meaning of “subtlety”, but in this very instance, it was a plus, at least for me.

Sorry to Bother You throws everything at you, and you either go with it and enjoy yourself or you will hate it because of it. I landed on the “loved it” side purely because of how creative this film was. From the beautiful cinematography by Doug Emmett, brilliant performances by LaKeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, to the mastermind behind it all, Boots Riley (who not only directed this film but wrote it too), this film worked for me for most of its length. The main reason for that would be the lack of subtlety, and I need to explain. Just because this film isn’t subtle about its message, it doesn’t make it bad; if anything, it enhances it. Because we all get it, we all understand exactly what the film is trying to say, so by focusing on the creative side rather than the “how can we make this straightforward message a bit more subtle” side, we can embrace the weird side of this movie. And boy, does it get weird.

From the “light” stuff (anybody can be a celebrity purely based on dumb stuff you record yourself doing) to more serious issues (the whole “white voice” thing and interlinking race with money) Sorry to Bother You can be accused of many things, but being boring isn’t one of them. I have seen LaKeith in some films before, but I believe this is my first film of his where he is the main star. And he nailed it. If I were to highlight one thing I loved about his performance, it would be his reactions to pretty much anything that happens in this film. In the scene where he first “discovers” the white voice, or when he stumbles upon something he shouldn’t have (no spoilers), his reaction/expression is always precious. As they say, acting is about reacting, and he can do that in both serious and comedy scenes. I need to search for more films with him.

Regarding Tessa’s character, she could be simply described as “mood”. From her outfits to those giant earrings (different ones in each scene!), her performance was the exact opposite of LaKeith’s, where every time he was conforming more, she was rebelling more. She never betrayed her values, although one can argue if some of her art pieces (like the one involving her being almost naked, getting shouted at while strangers would throw things at her) might prove otherwise…? But again, this film isn’t about subtlety, so her character had to be over-the-top; it had to be quite the opposite of LaKeith’s; it had to be… mood.

It would be easy to disregard this film as a “corporations bad, well, that’s a new idea” message. Sure, that is literally what this film is about (and also about how in the USA, being poor can be linked with your race and how society places a value on you, making you into a number rather than a person); but the better question is, why? Why did Boots Riley decide to make his feature film debut like this? I have a theory about that – when you are dealing with such a big topic that is “so obvious”, sometimes “go big” is no longer an option, so you need to “go super-extra-large and make it double, please”. Because had he done it in a more “traditional” way, this would probably fall through the cracks and was forgotten about easily as “one of those” films we all know are “important”. So instead, he decided to have as much fun as possible with this topic that’s, face it, bizarre. And I don’t mean the “topic” of this film; I mean how we (humanity) have decided this is how things are done; most people will struggle while a few “chosen ones” will live like kings… Anyway…

My only complaint is that this film is packed with so many things coming at you at once it, at times, becomes overwhelming. I don’t think I get overwhelmed easily, but sometimes it felt like this film was talking about 100 different things at once, and not all would land. But I can also see how this movie would benefit from multiple viewings, and quite honestly? I am up for that. I had great enough time to rewatch it at some point.

Overall, Sorry to Bother You is one of a kind film that is hard to describe. Yes, you can “easily” sum up the main idea, but you would lose so much by not watching it. It is almost like trying to sum up Inception (2010, my review here) by saying: “It’s about dreams within dreams”. Sure, that is 100% what that film is about, but it is also about so much more than that, and more importantly, it is executed in such a way words don’t do it justice. And same goes for Sorry to Bother You. It’s a visually striking film full of fascinating ideas/imagery that will throw everything your way. I can’t wait to see it again.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!

Until next time,

Luke

Nomadland (2020) Review – Nomads in America

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I am not going to lie; this film surprised me. And I will tell you why. From the far, it seems like your stereotypical “indie project that managed to win an Oscar” because it’s long, pretty to look at, and nothing much happens. All the Oscar promos I watched during The 93rd Academy Awards (2021) gave me the impression this film is nothing more than that, and I have to say those promos talked me out of watching this film for a while because I must be in a specific mood to appreciate these films. Well, I found myself in that mood some time ago and finally watched it, trying to separate the accolades this film received and see it for what it is. And it worked.

Nomadland is only the third film for Chloé Zhao after her debut Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015, my review here) and The Rider (2017), but you couldn’t tell. Well, at least I couldn’t, that this film was shot by somebody so young as it feels like a movie one might make in their late 50s or early 60s. And maybe that is why many found themselves enchanted by this “little movie that could”. Nomadland is told and shot with such precision it feels big at the scope (we have some breathtaking shots here, and the movie covers many different locations) but “small” at its core. It is a very simple story about anything but a simple character Fern portrayed by Frances McDormand. It is at this point of the review I have to stop and admire what Frances did.

The more I think about the kind of career Frances McDormand has had over the years, the more I am convinced she might be one of the most interesting people in Hollywood. With three Oscars under her belt (the most recent one being for this film) and all being for leading roles, she’s already made her mark in cinematic history, and I believe if you were to sit down with her for a coffee or two to pick her brain, your world view might change. Even her Oscar-winning speech showcases how engaged she is, and what is more important, it feels authentic. And that word, ‘authentic’, is a great one to describe her performance in this film, as she is in every scene of this movie. Sure, that might be a narcissist’s dream, but it is an extremely tough task as there is a danger of “too much of a good thing” that can spoil your appetite. But not in this case. Her character doesn’t talk much (another example of why she truly deserved that Oscar), yet you can always tell what is happening in her head. Her Fern is a complex “piece of work” character who occasionally does things differently, things more “normal” (or traditional thinking) person would not do. But what Frances brings to the table here is her massive talent and the ability to make you understand everything with either a limited number of words or no words at all. Talk about mastering your craft when you can do what she does, and you make it seem so easy.

Nomadland features (as it’s almost tradition at this point with one of Chloé’s films) many non-actors who are, in fact, “nomads”. People with no “fixed” homes roaming around from one job to another, living a very minimalistic lifestyle. It speaks volumes that Frances was never sticking out like a sore thumb; quite the opposite. If you read through trivia for this movie, you will see that many of the actual nomads didn’t know she was an actress and were convinced she was one of them. The reason I am mentioning this is simple. It would be easy for Chloé to shoot this like a documentary, but she never did. She never went down that road and made this a truly cinematic experience with Frances at the helm. And that experience stays with you.

Yes, Nomadland isn’t a film you would put on on a cosy Sunday afternoon when you just want to “chill”. It is a movie that requires more of your attention and “investment”, but if you are willing to pay attention and invest the emotion and time this film deserves, I believe you will be rewarded by the end. Because Nomadland‘s beauty is that at its very core, it is something most (if not all of us) wondered about at one point in our life. The idea of “what does everything mean”? Where does it say I have to live a “traditional life”, and what does that even mean? Why not just sell everything I own, invest it into an RV and travel around, doing these odd jobs, just to support myself and my partner, living on the bare minimum. Escape, or trying to escape the stress of our everyday lives. Well, many people (myself included) think of that for a minute or two and can see many flaws with this plan, and we get back to being “comfortable”. And then, there are these nomads, who actually go for it. Who are willing to sacrifice everything to be free, or as close as possible to the idea of freedom, not tied down to property, land… I admire that. This lifestyle would 100% not be for me, but there is a part of me who admires people who can do that.

Overall, Nomadland is a powerful film with one of our finest actresses at its core. It is a film that’s not trying to convince you to become a nomad but what this film is trying to do is to show you that lifestyle as close as possible while being cinematic. Did the film have to be almost two hours long? No, at times, it dragged just a tiny bit. But also, that is my only “real” complaint, as everything else about this movie surprised me and exceeded my expectations. I can’t wait to see what Chloé does next. I sincerely hope Eternals (2021, my review here) and its reception did not break her in any way, and we can hope for more fascinating movies from her.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!

Until next time,

Luke

Black Bear (2020) Review – Mulholland Drive in the Woods

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It’s becoming increasingly rare to go into any movie not knowing anything about it, especially if you are interested in films. I vaguely remember some people talking about Black Bear around the time when it came out, praising the film and Aubrey Plaza. Since then, I forgot about this film until it popped up on Mubi (not an ad, even though I wish they would pay me, just a fan of this streaming platform). So knowing next to nothing, I went in and what I got was an experience that will stay with me for some time.

Black Bear is a fascinating film, as it is literally two films. What I mean is that the film starts one way, where we are introduced to our main trio (Aubrey, Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon) and watch them interact. Tension is building up with every scene, so you think to yourself: “Ah, it will be one of those movies.” And then, something happens, where you question everything you have seen until now. That’s why I titled my review based on one of my favourite movies of all time Mulholland Drive (2001), as that’s a perfect example of how to make this concept beautifully. Well, as long as you enjoy being confused and not “getting” the film on your first viewing. Black Bear gave me some serious Mulholland Drive flashbacks, yet it is a totally different film.

Firstly, it is not a movie I would describe as “mysterious”. The big part of Mulholland Drive is that fantasy/mystery element regarding what is real and what is not. Black Bear is much more straightforward, but if you were to ask me what actually happened in this film, I would struggle. Not in the “this is confusing” way; it is more about which one of those two storylines is real and which is not. Because one clearly inspires the other, but the “magic” of this film is you can argue both ways. You can say the first half is the “real” one and the second is “the fantasy”, but the more I think about this film, the more I could see it being the other way around as well.

You might have noticed I am not talking about the actual plot of this film, and there is a reason for that. I want you to experience it with as little information as possible. I might have already said too much anyway, but a big part of why I loved this film so much is the unique storytelling approach Lawrence Michael Levine the director and screenwriter of this film, chose. And I think knowing as little as possible is the best way of watching this film. What I can and need to talk about, however, are the performances.

Both Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon shine in their respective roles. But this is a one-woman show if I ever saw one. This film is a vehicle for a powerhouse performance of one Aubrey Plaza, and yeah, she should have had a much bigger career by now. While watching Black Bear, you might be fooled into thinking she is “just being her sarcastic self, again”, as that’s how her character starts this film. But soon, you will discover she goes on this journey and what people around her put her through is, at times, tough to watch. It is hard to describe without giving anything away. Let’s just say I was impressed by Aubrey’s performance. If this film had a wider distribution and some major studio behind it, I could see Aubrey being not just nominated for an Oscar but possibly being a frontrunner too.

Where the movie differs from Mulholland Drive is what it wants to talk about. Black Bear is interested in having a conversation about inner demons and the artistic process. And how often people can push others to get something better out of them. Black Bear is not scared to have an uncomfortable discussion about taking one’s art “a bit” too far. We often hear stories about how directors would treat some performers on sets for the “sake of the movie” to squeeze a bit more emotions out of them. And once we (the audience) see the finished product, we justify it by saying: “Yeah, it probably shouldn’t happen like this, but that performance was amazing!” Well, Black Bear will test your beliefs and puts you (through Aubrey’s character) into that uncomfortable situation, leaving it all up to you whether you are still ok with everything by the end of the film.

This movie is 100% one of those films you must watch multiple times to appreciate, even trying to understand what is real and what isn’t. And honestly, even though this is not your “Saturday afternoon chill time” movie, I can’t wait to rewatch it. Because I already loved it, but something is stopping me from giving it the highest rating. I can’t put my finger on what that “something” is, but I believe another viewing will clear up many things, and who knows, maybe it will also bring up new questions altogether…? I wouldn’t be surprised as Black Bear is one of those films you can analyse for hours.

Overall, Black Bear is a fascinating film full of phenomenal performances, and one performance rules them all. If you only know Aubrey from her comedic roles, please watch this film to see how talented she is and how she handles herself in this complicated role. Without this powerhouse of performance by her, Black Bear would not have worked. She had to deliver for this to have any chance, and she did. In a perfect world, this should have been the career-making role that would have helped her to get more recognition. I still hope it will happen because she deserves it. And this movie deserves to be seen by many more people.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!

Until next time,

Luke