Short Reviews on Films I’ve Watched Recently

As many of us have been stuck inside during this global pandemic, we have had a lot of time to enjoy some of our more introvert hobbies; One of mine being watching television shows and movies in my spare time. It feels like it has been ages since the last time I was able to experience a film in its fully intended format on the big silver screen. However my love for my hobby hasn’t died down in the slightest. I’ve watched many films since the last time I hit a legit cinema but I’d thought I share some of my thoughts on a small selection of these films I’ve experienced during this quarantine life we have found ourselves in.

Well without further ado here are my short and sweet thoughts:

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The Wolf House 2018
★★★ Watched 08 Jul, 2020

Artistically brilliant but lacking focus.

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I’m No Longer Here 2019
★★★★★ Watched 05 Jul, 2020

I loved this film. Equally a powerful tale of poverty/violence and an examination of what it means to be home.

Ya no estoy aqui (I'm no longer here) (en) | Cinelatino

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Almost Friends 2016
★★★★½ Added 03 Jul, 2020

This is straight garbage romcom with a real generic formula but shit was entertaining to watch, so whatever and that’s how imma rate it. One thing I noticed is that the side plots were distracting/uninteresting. This was a good popcorn flick to watch with a group of friends, significant other, or by yourself if you have some time to burn. If you/they don’t like Freddie Highmore though you might want to pass.

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The Vast of Night 2019
★★½ Watched 01 Jul, 2020

The beginning of this film has some fantastic world building but it sputters out for me at about the halfway mark.

The Vast of Night movie review (2020) | Roger Ebert

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Ingrid Goes West 2017
★★½ Watched 29 Jun, 2020

More comedy than drama which is a huge loss in my opinion.

Review: 'Ingrid Goes West,' and Social Media Is Her Road Map - The ...

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Waves 2019
★★★★★ Watched 16 Jun, 2020

Waves tells it’s story fully and without feeling drawn out. The film tells an expansive story of the lives touched by tragedy and the ripples that permeate their lives. I wish it lasted longer…

Waves (2019) by Trey Edward Shults

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire 2019
★★★★★ Watched 07 Jun, 2020

I was truly wowed by this film. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a remarkable tale of a fleeting but profound love, highlighted by amazing performances, beautiful costume design, and best in class cinematography.

portrait-of-a-lady-on-fire-trailer

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Millennium Mambo 2001
★ Watched 31 May, 2020

Art house bore. Beautifully shot but horrendous story and lifeless main character.

How Millennium Mambo set the blueprint for Moonlight

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The Hunt 2020
★★★★ Watched 21 Mar, 2020

This movie was pretty fun watching with the family.

Recension: The hunt (Film) | SvD

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The Invisible Man 2020
★★★½ Watched 29 Feb, 2020

Solid popcorn thriller film with solid production and an above average score. This film will be very popular. Go head out with your friends/dates for a very enjoyable theater experience.(Edit: These thoughts were before everything in the country was shut down)

The Invisible Man Scares Up $9.8 Million at Friday Box Office ...

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The Lodge 2019
★★★★★ Watched 22 Feb, 2020

I think this just became my favorite horror movie all time. The film is unsettling as hell and beautifully shot. The entire audience at the screening I attended were morbidly quiet and freaked out from this film. Can’t recommend enough!

The Lodge (2019)

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Jojo Rabbit 2019
★★★★★ Watched 22 Feb, 2020

Loved the uniqueness, simple but effective plot, and humor.

Jojo Rabbit' review: Taika Waititi goofs on Hitler in fab WWII satire

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Marriage Story 2019
★★★★★ Watched 08 Feb, 2020

Adam Driver is phenomenal here. He is a definite runner up for best actor if he doesn’t straight up steal it as the underdog. I abso-freaking-lutely loved this film. Perfectly illuminating the unfairness and brutal honesty of what divorce/separation does to a couple. And don’t let me start on the amazing home evaluation scene. This film is a damn near masterpiece. Please watch it! It’s on Netflix for Christ’s sake. You don’t have an excuse letterbox family.

What's Missing from the Brilliant “Marriage Story” | The New Yorker

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Terminator: Dark Fate 2019
★½ Watched 01 Feb, 2020

Legion flashbacks were interesting at least.

Biggest Unanswered Questions In Terminator: Dark Fate | Movier

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The Lighthouse 2019
★★★★½ Watched 29 Jan, 2020

Dafoe really shines here. I could listen to him berate someone all day.

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American Factory 2019
★★★★½ Watched 20 Jan, 2020

An eye opening look into globalization , American values, and efficiency. American factory is thoroughly entertaining and an equally depressing depiction of the direction the world is going.

American Factory' a tale of two blue collars: US and Chinese | 48 ...

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1917 : Review

I’ve always loved war movies even though they have been far and few between recently. Upon witnessing teasers of the film 1917, I put a great amount amount of restraint on myself and deliberately held back my excitement for the upcoming movie. All I knew for sure was that I desired to see this film in the biggest screen possible with the highest quality sound that I could find.

I’m certain that the film’s critics will confine the impact of this film into a small box. A box that says this film is simply spectacle and nothing else but after seeing what it had to offer I’d have to strongly argue against this. A strong parallel for this film would obviously be Nolan’s Dunkirk. That film housed solid performances similar to George McKay’s in 1917 but where 1917 really shines is its ability to create sympathy.

The lack of characterization for both of these films is present but felt much more so with Dunkirk. While Dunkirk somewhat frustrated me with its indistinguishable characters Roger Deakins and Sam Mendes overcomes these shortcomings with their direction and work.

Sam Mendes has gone on to say he wanted to convey a story that anyone could relate to despite their previous knowledge. This is a war film that puts its focus on the war itself and in turn successfully emphasizes the futility and horror of war. The film’s single shot approach adds an extra layer of immersion that allows you to engross yourself into the era and feel the harrowing consequences and effects of armed conflict first hand.

I would be disingenuous if I said this film didn’t lean heavily into its technical and awe-inspiring cinematography. I don’t reckon Deakins had a single bad shot in this entire film. Yet, I think he does it effectively and it gives us a film that is a blast to watch.

While I personally don’t believe that this film will have a broad appeal beyond war movie buffs it did something that Nolan’s Dunkirk failed to do for me. It kept me truly engaged. 1917 is truly stirring artistry and conveys Deakins prowess and Sam Mendes deft hand. These two are true leaders in their respective fields. This film soars beyond it’s simple plot and premise and lands into something surprisingly great.

Review: Do yourself a service and watch this while it still rolls in theaters.

 

 

Fallen Angels(1995): Review

Just when I’d gotten somewhat bored with movies , a deep dive into my backlog of forgotten films brought me across Fallen Angels. Fallen Angels is movie that has to be seen to understand its magic. The story runs the gambit from a coming of age tale all the way to a burnt out hit-man looking to get out. One of the most surprisingly impactful thread is in the romantic elements of this film. Pessimism and cynicism somewhat pervade all throughout the story and these characters as we follow them in the film. This sense of dread seemingly even bleeds visually into almost every frame. The relationships contained in the film are as broken as they come but through them we also get hope and genuine optimism that really ties it all together.

You wouldn’t think you would get such touching moments from the characters in the film. One such character in the film is a complete mute who hijacks businesses at night while they are closed and physically forces pedestrians to pay him. Another is an assassin who is torn and divided on the idea of real human companionship. These two main actors are accompanied by a truly authentic couple of convincing and polar opposite supporting actresses that compliment the cast greatly. However the real standout is Takeshi Kaneshiro who plays the role of the mute He Zhiwu. A pure performance piece for him as he never utters a line of dialogue. The overall arching narrative in Fallen Angels never stretches itself too thin and leads to a fantastic climax and very satisfying wrap up resolution. Character arcs don’t lead to complete transformations or existential epiphanies . Instead we get a more developed and subtle character progression but it is more potent. In all the chaos of their lives it is the smaller human things that spoke the most to me in this film, such as He Zhiwu’s relationship to his father.

Fallen Angels is a hyper stylized film that is truly a visual feast. Scene by scene we are dazzled and treated to masterclass cinematography through some of the best camera work I’ve seen in a very long time. On a technical perspective I don’t think any Asian film has ever impressed me as much as this. I’m unsure what element of the cinematography impressed me the most. Was it the unorthodox angles, film distortion, or bombardment of color frame by frame? It could have also been the downright nostalgic and superior look of non digital film in the 90s with all it’s “flaws”. I’ll be sure to take a look at Christopher Doyles other works.

Fallen AngelsImage result for fallen angels 1995

Image result for fallen angels 1995

I can’t recommend this film more for movie buffs out there. Fallen Angels has an effective musical score, unforgettable visuals, and truly authentic ensemble of convincing and supporting actors.

Although my romantic relationship with cinema can even lead me to becoming altogether estranged from the medium once in awhile, all it takes is that one special film to show me that i’m always In The Mood For Love. This is that film. Go watch it folks.

The Vault(2017): Review

The Vault is an interesting  genre mix up. A mash up of your standard b-movie heist genre and a weird combination of unexpected horror. As far as bank heist films go, this film is pretty adequate. All the right beats for suspense in the first half of the film are hit as the would be robbers go in to make a score. Unfortunately they don’t know what they have gotten themselves into. As their plan unravels through predictable bank heist mistakes, so does a much darker under tone for the film.

A paranormal component to the film is introduced when the crew looks to target the vault in the basement. The horror element in the movie is relatively rushed. Their isn’t any real build up or pay off for the horror side of the film.The film doesn’t rely on jump scares but instead unnerving hallucinations and gore. Looking back at the film I believe the horror aspect of the film proved to be one of The Vault’s weakest characteristics.

Image result for francesca eastwood the vault

Cinematography takes a realistic approach and it fits the grittiness of the subject materials. No scenes in particular really hit home for me in that regards.  The writing in the film isn’t horrible but is very unexciting because everything is as expected. Taryn Manning gives a solid performance for her usual skitzy typecast character. The dialogue is run of the mill,  however Francesca Eastwood’s acting is pretty much wasted for this film and was a pleasant surprise. I look forward to seeing her in new roles.

James Franco the most prominent actor and main focus of  promotional material in the film is just there to attract viewers it seems. Franco only speaks about 5 lines of dialogue and only  holds onto a minuscule amount of screen time  the whole film. This film won’t last the test of time but I recommend firing it up when it goes up on your favorite streaming service.The vault is good fun and I would recommend for  a boring night you want to stay in and stream something with a friend.

 

Sicario: Review

Sicario is a great film. It’s a film that should get big numbers but probably won’t because of the current box office offerings and that’s a real shame. I dare to say this will be a film that will be looked back on as a classic in ten years but was overshadowed by blockbusters. It has suspense and delivers a tense and very believable world.

A large credit of that should go to the cinematographer. The film is incredibly authentic and grounded and complimented by the camera work. As for the actual acting; the stand out performance comes from Emily Blunt.

Emily Blunt does a fantastic job portraying a woman way over her head without falling to far into being a girl who is the typical helpless damsel that the industry usually pushes out. Some of my favorite parts of the film were the interactions or lack of interactions that Emily’s characters was receiving. How that sexual barrier in a male dominated police/military was portrayed was really compelling.

It’s a violent/graphic film but it’s done extremely well. Characters choices and motivations feel weighty and hold a sense of purpose. There are a couple scenes in this film that will probably bring up some controversy but I don’t believe film makers should back away from difficult topics and I applaud the people who went through with including some of the themes in this film.

One portion of the film that stood out to me and could be seen as a potential negative in a mostly positive review would be the tunnel scene in the film. I’m not sure if it was a bad cut or it could have done with some better editing but when Emily Blunt’s character exits and confronts one of the central cast members outside the tunnel it’s done in a very off putting manner. It felt like something was missing or edited out. It’s a small thing sure but it felt a little rough around the edges.

There’s nothing as satisfying as a well done ending and Sicario delivers. Greatness in simplicity, was what they achieved. It was filled with truth , sadness and reveals perfectly the reality of it all.

I highly recommend this crime thriller!

Self/Less: Review

Self/Less is a film which reminds you constantly not to suspend belief. The plot in Self/Less isn’t bad in itself but paired with bad writing/dialogue and a flat performance from Ryan Reynolds it pushes the film from being a promising B-  film to a soulless cash in on tried formulas. An over reliance on action movie tropes ,such as exaggerated military training capabilities, makes Self/Less fall into the category of outright silliness at times.

Characters behave and react to events in illogical and absurd manners. We are treated with a relatively disappointing and weakly written female supporting roles in a post-Mad Max society. A thoroughly unscientific plot attempts to prove that it is grounded but falls painstakingly short and expounds the gullible nature of Ryan’s on-screen “wife” even further. What could have been embraced as a distant undiscovered possibility is squandered by unconvincing narrative.

This movie had an intriguing premise which would be better suited to relish in its obscurity. It focuses on tried and overused devices in Hollywood filmmaking. With a lack of rational characters and motives, Self/Less fumbles while searching for it’s identity. While there is an obvious protagonist and antagonist, there really shouldn’t be. The audience is essentially forced into an opinion which would be fine if there was some sort of reasonable payoff.

We are given a glimpse about a debate on who is really right and wrong but ultimately do not care due to lack of execution. Self/Less isn’t a terrible movie but it certainly isn’t one that treats its audience as though they are remotely intelligent.

Verdict: 4/10 (Skip)

 

Gone Girl: Review

“Did you kill your wife?” This is the slogan for the movie and the most important question asked in this film, but all is not what it seems in this mysterious drama. Ignoring misogynistic claims from the community, which are actually  sort of legitimate, I’m going to just focus on whether this film is good or bad. Gone Girl is a thriller that absorbs you in its story. The adaptation from the best selling novel from Gillian Flynn, translates relatively nice onto the big screen.

Thanks to the great directing from David Fincher and the source material. Major plot devices and elements aren’t sprung on you at the last possible moment for shock purposes. Rosamund Pike’s performance as the alleged killer’s wife Amy will certainly be receiving some nods come awards time. Ben Affleck portrayed the alleged killer’s role with a level of charisma and skill that is really great to watch. His performance up to and including the trial is really a a strong and pleasant reminder of what we could possibly be receiving when he masks himself as the caped crusader.

Gone Girl is  considerably dark; a theme and mood that Fincher is becoming synonymous with. Fincher flourishes in this adaptation of this mysterious and gloomy story. He somehow manages to invoke sympathy from multiple angles in this story, a difficult task considering this particular narrative. There are limitations to what can be done with adaptations, such as these. I couldn’t really comment on the faithfulness of the film to the source material but I was left wanting more at the conclusion of the movie.  We are given a fantastic build up and a relatively anticlimactic ending. This I must reiterate has no impact or takes away from the overall film in any way.

I was left satisfied and was thoroughly engrossed throughout. Affleck is truly on a great streak right now. We can only hope that his involvement in the Batman film does not force him out of roles like this. This might be on the last films we see before we can only see him as the Bat. I highly recommend going out to the theater and seeing this or pick it up on Blu-ray!

Fish Tank(2009): Review

In an ocean of independent films about troubled teenagers, Fish Tank truly sets itself apart from the pack. This a movie that I fell in love with progressively as it went on. Fish tank is a film I’m going to shower with praise because I really just can’t any faults in it.The best word to describe certain aspects of the film Fish Tank is authentic.

I sat there watching certain parts of the film, simply admiring how grounded the world seemed. It felt like I was looking outside of a window in  East London and spectating the lives of these characters.Camera work is phenomenal in this film.  The imagery isn’t the usual pretentious indie affair. There’s actual meaning for what the audience is allowed to see. The way the cinematographer selected what he should focus on was genius and allows for some great symbolism.

The director did a great job with the pacing in Fish Tank. A lot of independent movies end abstractly and almost feel completely detached from the rest of film. Fish Tank starts, progresses, and ends in a satisfying manner. It’s helped even further with fantastic writing.  The characters in Fish Tank are extremely well done. The performance by Katie Jarvis as the character Mia was really gripping.The dialogue was very well thought out for all of the characters. The dialogue almost seemed to give off the vibe that it was improvised for some sections of Mia’s scenes. That statement isn’t a criticism though; it’s just a testament to how absorbed I was in the world that Andrea Arnold had directed and penned.

Fish Tank is a forceful  drama that mesmerizes you by doing everything right. It’s a moving  piece of British cinema that works because its characters are convincing. It boasts a fantastic supporting cast and a real winner with a break out performance and debut from Katie Jarvis. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for more work from Andrea Arnold. I recommend this film if you like your heart strings being played on.

Transcendence: Review

Transcendence wanted so bad to prove to you that it wasn’t mediocre. It sports a great cast, great special effects, and  the premise of the story had so much potential that I almost had a semi reading the plot summary. Hollywood needs to learn that you can’t just throw money at a project and expect for the best.

The plot seemed like it was trying to do too much with too little time. A little more focus on the science behind what was happening on screen could have been beneficial. On the other hand, it also could have highlighted how ridiculous everything in this film actually was. We get a ton of run-of-the-mill performances from big name actors but the only real stand out is Paul Bettany. Maybe they should have thrown a couple more smooth talking English actors in the mix to give the illusion that the dialogue wasn’t uninspired.

Sentient artificial intelligence is a topic that I’m very attracted to. I am a great supporter of the Mass Effect series. This is a franchise that really shows how well a story about artificial intelligence can be done. In the universe of Mass Effect Artificial Intelligence is outlawed due to the dangers they present to organic beings.The basic premise of the plot in Transcendence is a bunch of religious nut jobs in an organization called R.I.F.T attack a scientist named William Castor. He is a man who is researching and developing a sentient machine. He is gravely injured and his grieving wife decides to take their research to the next stage by “uploading him”. The plot is a convoluted mess and the actions of the people on screen make little to no sense. In fact I think some characters roles in the film are so insignificant, I ponder why they even made it pass post production.

Wally Pfister who received well deserved attention for his cinematographic  work  on the movie Inception, made his directorial debut on the film. He did a  fair job but to be blunt I think this film needed him more in the cinematography aspect. Characters move around the screen in Transcendence like they don’t know what they are doing or where they are going. It just felt really sloppy and awkward at times to watch.

Transcendence is mostly horrible. Avoid it, unless you like blockbuster mediocrity.

The Counselor: Review

From the writer who brought us The Road and No Country for Old Men, comes the tale of a naive lawyer who tries his hand in the dangerous but lucrative business of drug running. This is a film that had sparks of brilliance but ultimately failed due to having a  plot that doesn’t effectively translate to the big screen.

The screenplay is full of witty and intelligent dialogue. Sadly it was hard to suspend belief while watching because this attribute applied to almost  every character. Almost  every member of the cast was too smart for there own good, It was bit hard to follow the narrative when you are bombarded with long winded conversations. These extended scenes of dialogue paid off at times but on the other hand it just seems as if the characters were just going off on tangents. This really threw off the pacing of the film.

The focus on the characters of the story is trademark Ridley Scott. His direction in the film really allowed for the development of some interesting personalities. We are treated with some some impressive lighting and camera work. The dark scenes set in mexico offer a great visual and atmospheric contrast to what is happening under the surface.

The movie sports an impressive and ensemble Cast. Javier Bardem, is always an interesting guy to watch on screen. Bardem plays the role of Reiner; a drug dealer who invites the counselor in on some of the action.  He  brings a unique flare to the characters he portrays. He exudes an exotic essence of culture and his personality was one of the more memorable in the film. And he also manages to bring to the film what is becoming a signature attribute of his; his knack for having the wildest hair-dos. The most technically impressive acting which shouldn’t come as a surprise, was the performance from Michael Fassbender. He has an ability to portray some varied and powerful emotions.

Brad Pitt gives a good performance but I think he needs to work on a new accent because it seems like its been dragging on for a couple films now. One of  the biggest surprises for me though comes from the casting decision of Cameron Diaz as the antagonist. I have to give it to Diaz. She really portrayed the cold and calculating girlfriend of Reiner expertly. My blood was boiling just about every moment I saw her on the screen. She might be known for more lighter  roles but she definitely has more potential then being the usual pretty face in romcoms.

The Counselor is a clever and sexy drama but probably won’t provide enough thrills to keep the average movie-goers attention. The film has moments of suspense but it is overshadowed by some bad decisions in its pacing. With all the talent attached to this film Its surprising this film wasn’t better. The pieces just didn’t fall together. The dialogue occasionally felt like the characters were showing off. The story was convoluted and ended in a somewhat abrupt manner. The Counselor was saved by splashes of humor, violence, and some utterly superb writing for most of the dialogue. In the end, I’d say definitely pass on this one until the Blu-ray or digital release.

Score: 6/10