I. Love, Antosha (2019)
“Anton was a dream” (Jeremy Saulnier, director of Green Room (2015)).
This is a moving documentary that explores the life of actor Anton Yelchin (Star Trek (2009), Green Room (2015), Thoroughbreds (2017)), from his birth in Russia to the champions of figure skating to his last films made. This is an engaging and respectful feature that aims to pay tribute to a person of outstanding acting ability who was taken too soon (died on 19 June 2016 when he was crashed between the brick wall and the fence when his car rolled back on him in his own parking space at home in Los Angeles). Through his own footages, as well as the interviews conducted with his parents, close friends and co-workers, we find out what kind of a person Anton really was – extremely devoted to his loving parents, loyal to his friends, kind, generous, curious, intellectual, funny, goofy and passionate about many aspects of life. He possessed great charisma and acting skills, having started acting at a very young age and then later acting alongside such stars as Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Albert Finney, Jodie Foster and Willem Dafoe, to name just a few. It is safe to say that, given his talent, he was just on the brink of “breaking through” in his career and just needed that one very successful and big movie that will escalate his career much further, a movie that, sadly, will never now come. By recognising him as an absolute star now, we can at least pay tribute to this potential, to the person who was so passionate about acting and films (trying his hand at directing too!) and whose kind, curious and sparkling personality will always be remembered.
Continue reading “Recently Watched: Documentaries: Love, Antosha (2019), Tower (2016) & 13th (2016)”
Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover (2011)), Joker is a latest, much-hyped movie starring Joaquin Phoenix (The Master (2012)) in the titular role of Arthur Fleck or Joker, a stand-up comedian fallen on hard times, who resorts to violence in Gotham City to avenge wrongs allegedly committed against him. Being supported by no other than Robert De Niro (a role reversal from The King of Comedy (1983)), Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance in Joker than can only be described as manically jaw-dropping in its brilliance. The character insight and portrayal are also bold, vivid, without holding anything back, as the film tries to explore the origins of Arthur’s homicidal tendencies through his early history and its revelations. However, unfortunately, if we then shift our attention to anything that is not Phoenix or the character study, we can see a number of problems in the film, including the inability to suspend disbelief regarding major plot developments, the sheer predictability of the plot, and the imbalance in the spotlight given to the minor characters vis-a-vis the main one. Joker is a kind of a film that is made up solely out of one character study and cannot show anything for itself apart from its character study and the brilliant performance. If Joaquin Phoenix is not there, there is no film (thankfully, Phoenix is virtually in every shot). Why should that be a problem? Building a film around a character study is one thing, but having a “film” that is nothing but a very “self-important” character study is something completely different (because, in this case, the film seems more like a shameful star-vehicle). There is no Joker, without the Joker, it is true, but when there is nothing but Joker and everything else (not much) in the film is either very awkward, very predictable, very questionable or very puzzling, then there is simply no great film. Continue reading ““Joker” Review”
Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben) (2018)
This mystery-thriller comes from the acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman (2016)), and stars such big-time actors as Penelope Cruz (Volver (2006)), Javier Bardem (Mother! (2017)) and Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)). It seems therefore like this film can do no wrong, but, unfortunately, much does not go well in this latest by Farhadi. In this story, Laura (Cruz) travels from Argentina to Spain with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. She arrives to a quiet Spanish village of her childhood and is happy to strengthen relationship with her large extended family. However, when Laura’s teenage daughter gets kidnapped, familial secrets come dangerously close to being revealed, and the pool of suspects thins to point to some family members. In Everybody Knows, the lead actors’ performances cannot be faulted, and the film has this one-of-a-kind ambiance of traditional rural Spain. The director also admirably tries to explore some curious familial situations. However, the problem with this film is that it does not become a clever mystery-thriller with tension surrounding the kidnapping and some twists to come. Instead, overlong Everybody Knows is all about tedious melodramatic scenes, with the feeling left that the script could have been considered for some local TV series. Even more unfortunately, what “everybody knows” in the story or the big reveal could easily be guessed in the first half of this well-meaning “mystery” movie. Continue reading ““Everybody Knows” Mini-Review”
The Third Murder (2018)
“People hardly understand members of their own family, let alone strangers” (Shigemori Akihisa in “The Third Murder”).
This film by an acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (“After the Storm” (2016), “Shoplifters” (2018)) begins with a scene of a murder in progress. A man kills his boss in cold blood and burns his body. The man – Misumi (Kōji Yakusho) – has previously been in prison for around 30 years for other two similar crimes he had committed. A legal team prepare a case, but since Misumi has confessed, there is nothing much to debate or investigate, and the sentence of death penalty looms over his head. The case of Misumi seems to be an open and shut one, or does it? When a new lawyer Tomoaki Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) takes over the case, he slowly begins to realise that something does not make sense in Misumi’s confession, and the centrepiece of confusion is the motivation of the killer. It also does not help that Misumi starts to change his story of what happened with an astonishing ease and conviction. In Kore-eda’s legal drama, it is interesting to uncover both personal connections to the case and the foreign legal system’s intricacies, but the quiet beauty of the picture can still be found in the slow unveiling of the truth.
Continue reading ““The Third Murder” Review”
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
It is no wonder that Agatha Christie chose the Orient Express, once the most luxurious train in the world, as the setting for one of her fictitious crime scenes. From Paris to Istanbul, a journey of some 1,920 miles, will take passengers around 1883 (the date of its first launch) through exquisite landscapes in the total comfort of their seats and beds. “Murder on the Orient Express” was also inspired by the real incident which happened in 1929 when the train was forced to a standstill for five days due to heavy snow. “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), directed by Sidney Lumet (“Twelve Angry Men” (1957)), could be said to be the first truly successful adaptation of a Christie’s novel, and the last film viewed by Agatha Christie herself, who approved it. Boasting an unbelievably starry cast, including such names as Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and Vanessa Redgrave, this adaptation is both true to the novel and very-well acted, deserving high praise.
Continue reading “Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Film Reviews”
Richard Gere plays a successful businessman, Robert Miller. Miller is a busy man, shuffling two distinct lives: one in which he is a self-made millionaire and a family man, the very face of respectability and success; and another where he is a deceitful and unfaithful husband keeping a beautiful mistress on the side, while also being an intelligent business fraudster. When a car accident shutters the well-thought-out balance of his double life, forcing him to start covering his shameful deeds, it becomes unclear whether or not he has already gone too far on the road of lust and deceit to be able to surface unharmed.
Continue reading ““Arbitrage” Mini-Review”
For those who are unfamiliar with Sam Mendes’ work and its quality, ‘Skyfall’ may appear just like another action flick of some average quality, just another James Bond film full of the same old tricks recycled once again. However, this is the film of Sam Mendes, which means that this first impression is false. ‘Skyfall’ is a delightful surprise, which has the potential to exceed everyone’s expectations. The film is intelligent, stylish, funny and very well-acted. It is certainly better than the previous two films in the James Bond series. In this film, James Bond (Daniel Craig), badly wounded on the mission to Turkey and unfit for service, embarks on yet another mission to stop a former ‘00…’ MI6 agent from completing his evil plan.
Continue reading ““Skyfall” Review”
The story is told through a character who introduces himself as Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey). He tells an FBI agent (Powers Boothe) of his childhood – a family of three: father (Bill Paxton) and his two sons. Initially a happy family, things turn for the worse when the father begins to experience a series of religious visions, prompting him to commit a series of gruesome murders. As the father’s insanity escalates, his two sons are forced to confront their own sense of right and wrong.
What is instantly evident is that ‘Frailty’s narrative and story flow are exemplary. Disturbing, shocking and totally thought-provoking, the film succeeds in inducing the atmosphere of tension, thrill and, finally, disbelief. The film grows to become really disturbing, maybe largely because it involves young children, reminiscing the scenes from such truly horrifying films as ‘Sleepers’ (1996) and ‘The Girl Next Door’ (2007).
Continue reading ““Frailty” Mini-Review”
Miller’s Crossing (1990)
Loosely based on Dashiell Hamett’s ‘Red Harvest’, ‘Miller’s Crossing’ is an intelligent gangster film shot in the style of a film noir, directed by Joel Coen, and produced by Ethan Coen and Mark Silverman. The film centres on Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne), who is the “right hand” of Leo O’Bannon (Albert Finney), an Irish-American political boss, running a Prohibition-era city somewhere in the US. Leo has a “beef” with Johnny Casper, a gangster and his Italian rival. Leo’s girlfriend is Verna, whose brother Bernie Bernbaum has a contract on his life and is wanted dead by Casper. The idea here is that by “giving” Bernie to Casper to kill, Leo and Casper can come to a peaceful understanding and agreement. However, Leo is reluctant to do so because of his girlfriend, who wants to see her brother alive. Tom thinks that Leo is making a mistake. However, Tom also has an affair with Verna, seemingly being in love, and therefore is also, at least “deep inside”, is trying to protect her. When Tom starts to “play” both sides, some unexpected events start to take place.
Continue reading ““Miller’s Crossing” Review”
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling, ‘Drive’ may give the impression of being yet another crime thriller filled with pointless action scenes and meaningless dialogue sequences. However, this first impression is false. Compared to other action movies, ‘Drive’ is like gold itself found amidst fake and counterfeited jewellery. With an amazing soundtrack, cast, performances, script and, above all, that nostalgic and unforgettable 1980s feel to it, ‘Drive’ is an impressive film, giving off brilliance of some kind of a cult movie, which maybe only be comparable to ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976).
Continue reading ““Drive” Review”
A History of Violence (2005)
David Cronenberg’s ‘A Dangerous Method’ (2011) is coming to the UK’s cinemas in February 2012, giving a good pretext to review one of the director’s most violent, action-driven and thought-provoking films – ‘A History of Violence’. Cronenberg excels himself in this film, blending a complex personality study and raw violence to a very satisfying result.
The film’s plot is straightforward. Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is an ordinary, law-abiding family man who runs his own diner in a small town in the US. His settled daily routine changes when he involuntarily becomes a local community hero after protecting his employees from some vicious gun men. From then on, his family is stalked by members of an Irish-American mob who are convinced that Tom Stall is Joey Cusack, a man from Philadelphia with a violent past. His wife Eddie (Maria Bello), his son Jack (Ashton Holmes) and his young daughter all feel overwhelmed by the changes. After a shooting incident, whereby Tom kills one of the mob guys, Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), Tom finally confesses that he was Joey in the past, but has left that life for good. Later, Tom receives a call from his brother Richie Cusack (William Hurt) telling him to come to Philadelphia to see him. Tom does just this, and after a confrontation with his brother, kills him. The ending, depicting Tom coming home from Philadelphia to find his family at a dinner table, is very thought-provoking because, although his children are seemingly prepared to forgive him, it is unclear whether his wife is capable of accepting him into her life again.
Continue reading ““A History of Violence” Review”